The Life and Contributions of Irish Trade Unionist, Jim Larkin

James Larkin, also known as Jim, was an Irish Trade Unionist. Jim was born in Liverpool, England to Irish parents on the 21st of January 1876. He received minimal formal education and did a variety of casual jobs. He rose to become a foreman at the Liverpool docks, and he developed a determination to fight for better working conditions.

Jim enrolled at the National Union of Dock Labourers (NUDL). In 1905, Jim became a full-time trade union organizer. However, in 1907, Jim got a transfer to Dublin because apparently, his militant strike action methods alarmed the NUDL.

Jim then decided to form the Irish Transport and General Workers’ Union (ITGWU) to bring all Irish workers together, whether skilled or unskilled. Under his leadership, ITGWU’s program demanded that workers do only eight hours work a day, employment for all and pensions for those over 60 years.

In 1912, together with James Connolly, Jim founded the Irish Labor Party. Through the party, he led a chain of strikes to push for the party’s agenda. Notable is the 1913 Dublin Lockout where more than a hundred thousand workers downed their tools for over half a year, eventually getting fair employment conditions.

Though he never used violence in his strikes, the press was against Larkin’s methods which included sympathetic strikes and boycott of goods. He still had support from people like Constance Markievicz and Patrick Pearse. Larkin also led anti-war demonstrations at the onset of the World War I.

In 1914 he toured the USA to raise funds for his union activities. In America, he joined the Industrial Workers of the World and the Socialist Party of America. While Jim was still in the US, the Easter Rising of 1916 occurred in Ireland. In 1918, Jim founded the James Connolly Socialist Club in New York in remembrance of Connolly who died in the Easter Rising.

In 1920, Jim got arrested and detained on criminal anarchy and communism charges. He was released in 1924 and deported back to Ireland where he founded the Workers’ Union of Ireland and gained recognition from the Communist International.

He also joined the Irish Labor Party and continued his work as a trade unionist until his death on 30, January 1947.