Labor Union Activist Jim Larkin

James Larkin, also called Jim Larkin, was an Irish labor organizer who was born in Liverpool, England on January 21, 1876.

James Larkin is credited with forming the Irish Transport and General Workers’ Union in the early 1900s after he’d become dissatisfied by the way he and the other workers were treated at the docks in Liverpool, where he worked as a foreman. While there, he joined the National Union of Dock Laborers, or the NUDL, and that was when he went into organizing trade unions full-time.

He organized strikes, or walk outs, while he was a member of the NUDL, but the organization became concerned when his strike methods turned militant, so he was transferred to Dublin, Ireland, where he started the ITGWU. His goal was to bring all Irish industrial workers, whether skilled or unskilled, into the union. Read more: Jim Larkin | Wikipedia

The group’s biggest strike happened in 1913 when over 100,000 workers went on strike for about 8 months. It was called the Dublin Lockout, and it helped the workers gain the right to have fair employment.

Jim Larkin traveled to the United States in 1914 to continue his trade union organizing, and later to raise money to fight the British, but he ended up getting deported. And at the start of World War 1, he staged massive anti-war protests in Dublin. He was recognized by the Communist International organization in 1924 after he had organized another labor union group called the Worker’s Union of Ireland.

While he was in the U.S. in 1920, he was convicted of communism and criminal anarchy, but he was pardoned 3 years later, then deported back to Dublin. Jim Larkin had very little formal education, and he worked many jobs when he was in his youth to help supplement his family’s income.

This early experience with having to work hard for little pay is most likely one of the factors that led him to become a labor union activist when he got older.

James, aka Jim, Larkin continued his labor organizing until the 1940s. He died in Dublin in 1947. He and his wife, Elizabeth, had 4 sons.