James Larkin- Irish Trade Unionist

James Larkin, otherwise known as Big Jim, was born on January 21, 1876, to Irish parents. He grew up in the slums of London, England since his family was poor. He did not receive much education for that matter, but he struggled with manual jobs until he landed on the London Docks as a foreman.

Jim Larkin was a known activist whose fight and advocacy for worker’s rights was undoubted. He became a full-time trade unionist in 1905, after joining the National Union of Dock Labourers, NUDL.

His methods of militant strikes were not acceptable by NUDL, therefore, in 1907 he was shifted to Dublin. This did not waver Jim Larkin’s ambition. He founded the Irish Workers and General Workers’ Union.

The goal of the union was to organize and unite all Irish workers, skilled or not. In December 2008, Jim Larkin outlined ITGWU’s political program.

During his time, skilled employees and those who were treated as different, as a day is to night. There was a notion that unskilled workers lowered down production and were not as industrious as the skilled ones. Therefore, those who did not hold much experience in their fields of duty suffered unfair treatment. This was not bearable, according to Jim Larkin.

Everything in the world has a beginning, and every worker has a starting point. One has to begin from inexperience to acquire the experience with time. James grew up under harsh conditions and had to struggle a lot to provide for his family. Therefore, he understood the strains that laborers went through, and that is the reason why he fervently advocated for their rights.

Jim Larkin later formed the Irish Labour Party. He led this party and several individuals who supported it, into numerous strikes. The strikes were a way to seek attention for laborers so that their cries were heard. Learn more about Jim Larkin: http://www.historyireland.com/20th-century-contemporary-history/big-jim-larkin-hero-and-wrecker/

The greatest strike he led was the Dublin Lockout of 1913 which involved more than 100,000 workers and went for seven months and finally won the right to fair employment.

Following the outbreak of the First World War, James Larkin held demonstrations in Dublin against the war. He also urged his fellow Irishmen not to take part in it. Jim Larkin later traveled to the United States where Larkin supported the arms production against the Brtish.

He showed his support by donating funds. James then joined the Socialist Party of America and the Industrial Workers of the World, IWW. He founded James Connolly Socialist Club, New York in honor of his friend James Connolly who passed on in the 1916 Easter Rising that took place in Ireland.

Jim Larkin was sentenced in 1920 for charges of communism and criminal anarchy. He was, however, pardoned three years later.

This led to his deportation to Ireland where he staged, organized and established the Workers’ Union of Ireland, WUI and also became a member of the Irish Labor Party in 1945. James Larkin died on 30 January 1947 at the age of 71. He left behind his beloved wife, Elizabeth Brown and four sons.

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