James Larkin, who was also known as Big Jim, was a labor activist born in England on January 21, 1876. He grew up with little education and worked numerous manual labor jobs. He would later work at the Liverpool docks as a foreman. Around that time, he joined the National Union of Dock Laborers (NUDL). In 1905, he committed himself to being a trade union organizer. Read more: James Larkin | Ireland Calling and James Larkin – Wikipedia
In 1907, he was moved to Dublin since his strike methods conflicted with the NUDL’s approach and it was in Dublin that he established the Irish Transport and General Workers’ Union (ITGWU). The ITGWU was the first union to be Irish based as most unions during that time was based on the British.
Larkin wished for all workers whether they were skilled or unskilled to be united under one union. Some aims of the ITGWU were a workday of eight hours, pension for workers over 60 and providing work for those that were unemployed.
Other goals included compulsory arbitration courts, adult suffrage and nationalizing transportation in Ireland. He would also later form the Irish Labor Party with James Connolly in 1912 and lead a series of strikes, most notably, the 1913 Dublin Lockout. The Lockout lasted about eight months with over 100,000 workers on strike and it would result in the right to fair employment.
During World War I, James held anti-war demonstrations and urged his fellow Irishmen to distance themselves from the war. He would later become a socialist speaker after leaving for the United States in 1914. Larkin would eventually be convicted of being a communist in 1919 and after being pardoned, was deported back to Dublin in 1923.
Back in Dublin, he soon fell out with the ITGWU after slandering William X. O’Brien, who led the union during Larkin’s imprisonment, and was expelled from the union in 1924. Afterwards, he formed the Worker’s Union of Ireland (WUI) and continued working as an activist for laborers until his death in 1947.
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