Jim Larkin: The Unsung Hero of Irish Workers

When people bring up heroes of the worker’s rights movement, Jim Larkin is one of the first names that comes to mind. Jim Larkin was born on January 21st, 1876 in the great city of Liverpool, England. During his youth, Jim struggled to survive. His family was poor and he had to work multiple jobs just to help his family stay afloat during tough times. Eventually, however, Jim Larkin worked his way up the ladder and became foreman at the Liverpool docks.

 

During this time, Jim Larkin’s opinions of the world started to shape. Having to work so hard made Jim Larkin’s view of workers rights aggressive. As a firm Marxist, he believed that workers rights were one of the most important foundational steps to creating a society free of oppression. Parts of these views were developed during his time at the National Union Dock Labourers (NUDL); where he rose up the ranks and became a union organizer in 1905. He wasn’t a good fit with the union, however, as he was headed in a more militant direction. Eventually, he was transferred to Dublin, Ireland after the NUDL decided that he was too militant for their organization.

 

Deciding to act on his views on workers rights, Jim Larkin developed the Irish Transport and General Workers Union —or the ITGWU—, one of the most active and dominant unions of its time. This eventually led to him forming the Irish Labour Party later on in life.

 

One of the biggest moves that Jim Larkin made, and the one that makes him a famous historical name, was the Dublin Lockout. In 1913 Jim organized Irelands biggest strike movement. The strike encompassed a massive 100,000 workers who went on strike for an unprecedented 8 months. This move earned them the right to fair employment and changed the way Irish workers were treated and compensated.

 

Jim Larkin eventually left to come to the United States to raise funds to organize anti-war demonstrations in Dublin. Of course, because of the political turmoil at the time, he was convicted of anarchy and communism in a criminal degree. He was, eventually, pardoned and shipped back to Ireland where he lived the rest of the days. Jim played a major role in the organization of labor in Ireland, and the subsequent treatment of Irish workers.