Jim Larkin is considered as one of the prominent trade union leaders of the 20th century who could make a profound influence in the U.K. and the U.S. He is credited with founding Irish Transport and General Workers’ Union, the Workers’ Union of Ireland, and the Irish Labour Party.
Larkin’s biggest achievement is considered to be the 1913 Dublin Lockout that ensured right to fair employment to the workers, irrespective of skilled or unskilled. He was a proponent of anti-war campaigns, and during the World War 1, Larkin protested against the war in Dublin and conducted various demonstrations including travel to the U.S. to raise funds to campaign against the British.
Larkin was born in 1876 in Liverpool as the second son of an Irish couple. His childhood was poverty-stricken, and he attended school and worked in factories to support his family from the age of seven.
Upon his father’s death at the Larkin’s age of 14, he was forced to take-up a full-time employment with the factory where his father worked. It should be noted that he received little formal education and started engaging with a variety of jobs since his childhood.
Since 1905, he became an active and full-time trade union campaigner and organizer. Larkin was collaborating with National Union of Dock Laborers or NUDL, and the union sent him to Scotland to organize workers in Glasgow and Preston in 1906. Read more: Jim Larkin | Wikipedia and Jim Larkin – Biography
Since January 1907, Larkin focused his works in Ireland, and the leadership struggle between Larkin James Sexton, the NUDL general secretary, led to his expulsion from the union. After the expulsion, Larkin founded his union named Irish Transport and General Workers’ Union or ITGWU in December 1908. The union focused on combining all the industrial workers from Ireland to one organization, irrespective of skilled or unskilled.
In 1912, Jim Larkin formed Irish Labour Party and elected to Dublin Corporation. By August 1913, the party under the leadership of Larkin declared the Dublin Lockout that saw more than 100,000 laborers going for a strike for eight months. The strike resulted with the right to fair employment.
During his travels to the U.S., in 1920, Larkin was convicted of the charges of propagating communism and anarchy and was sentenced to a term of five to ten years. However, he was pardoned later and deported to Ireland in 1923. When Larkin returned to Ireland, he received a grand welcome and became a proponent of communist ideologies.
He mobilized Workers’ Union of Ireland and worked to ensure the recognition of the union from Communist International in 1924. The union grew quickly and received larger support from workers that saw membership of two-thirds of ITGWU Dublin.
During the 1927 general election, Larkin contested in Dublin North and got elected. In 1941, he fought against the William O’Brien’s trade union restructuring proposal along with Irish branches of the English unions and small general unions.
However, the campaign did not drive the required result, and the bill passed as a law. Larkin and his supporters decided to join Labour Party and continued with it until his death in 1947.