Jim ‘Big Jim’ Larkin was an Irish trade unionist, socialist and co-founder of the Irish Labour Party. Born and raised in Liverpool, England, on January 21, 1876, Larkin lived a fairly impoverished life and had to work as child to help support his working-class family in order to survive. During the late 1800’s, he worked as a docker and sailor at Liverpool’s docks. He became engrossed in socialism during this time and joined England’s Independent Labour Party. In 1903, Larkin became a dock foreman up until he went striking alongside the dockers during a dispute with their employer in 1905.
The National Union of Dock Labourers liked Jim Larkin’s overall zeal during the strike and appointed him as an organizer. He was sent to locations in Glasgow, Preston and Belfast and had success in organizing their union workers. After initiating a few sympathetic strikes and organizing workers in Ireland without the consent of the NUDL, Larkin’s membership was quickly revoked in 1908. He moved to Dublin, Ireland and formed the Irish Transport and General Workers’ Union, ITGWU. Dublin’s unskilled laborers had very few rights and Larkin worked hard to try and unionize the industrial workers of Ireland, skilled or unskilled. He organized hundred of workers and strategized and went on sympathetic strikes in order to receive fair pay and employment.
The ‘1913 Dublin Lock-Out’ was the largest industrial dispute that ever occurred in Ireland. A few of Dublin’s biggest industrial employers were against Jim Larkin’s unionizing their workforce. They demanded that workers under the ITGWU had to leave the union or risk getting locked out from employment. Over 100,000 participated in non-violent strikes and boycotts against 300 employers. The dispute left hundreds of workers and their families exhausted and almost to the point of starvation. Some local shops went out of business because of the boycotts. After seven hard months, the industrial workers of Dublin were finally given their rights to fair wages and employment. Larkin played a significant role in reshaping Ireland’s modern industrial workforce. Jim Larkin passed away at the age of 71, on January 30, 1947.