Jim Larkin was a trade unionist and sactivist who helped formed the Irish Labour Party in 1912. He was born in Liverpool, England, in 1876 to Irish parents who had emigrated to England before he was born. He desired for all of Ireland’s skilled and unskilled industrial labor workers to belong under one union and he relentlessly fought to do so. Read more: James Larkin | Biography and James Larkin | Ireland Calling
Industrial workers, especially the unskilled workers during that time, were unfairly treated and Larkin would help them gain their rights to fair working conditions and wages throughout his time as a trade union leader.
Jim Larkin had to take the afternoons off from his school to work in casual labor jobs during his entire youth. This was a normalcy for working class families during that time and he and his brothers had to help his parents make ends meet.
By the time he was in his late teens he had converted to socialism and became a member of a left-wing English political party while working at the Liverpool docks as a docker.
Jim Larkin was later assigned to work as a foreman dock porter in 1903. The National Union of Dock Labourers, NUDL, had taken a liking to Larkin after witnessing him strike alongside the dockers and putting his foreman job in jeopardy. The NUDL offered him to work as a trade union organizer and he became a full-time organizer by 1906.
The NUDL sent him to Belfast and Glasgow to help organize workers. After several years he was pressured to leave the union after they had felt that his strike methods were becoming quite hawkish. During 1908, Jim Larkin left for Dublin, Ireland and founded the Irish Transport of General Workers’ Union, ITGWU.
The ITGWU set off to unionize Dublin’s industrial labor force and gained many new members along the way. Some of the city’s biggest industrial employers didn’t care for the idea of unionizing and forced many of their workers out that were affiliated with the ITGWU.
This resulted in the 1913 Dublin Lockout, one of Ireland’s largest and devastating industrial disputes in history.
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