James Larkin was a renowned labor activist who advocated for worker’s rights in the early 20th century. He had unparalleled vivacity, courage, and ideas. The activist was born to a low-income family that lived in the Liverpool’s informal settlements.
The financial state of his parents made him miss the opportunity of getting a quality education. Larkin got a casual job at the dock so that he could earn some extra money for his family. In his early twenties, he was hired him as foreman. James felt like he was being oppressed while working at the dock was inspired to become a labor activist.
He was a committee socialist who strived to end capitalism and also ensure that the rights of the less privileged people were not violated. The activist was recognized in 1905 for his participation in a dock strike, and the National Union of Dock Labourers (NUDL) appointed him to be one of its labor organizers.
Larkin was sent to Belfast in 1907 and led the first unskilled labors’ strike. He started a strong branch of the NUDL, and it was significantly opposed by employers.
The NUDL transferred Larkin to Dublin in 1908 where he was in charge of rallying port employees. He did not like the way the union treated him in Belfast, and this led to his exit from British trade unionism. James later started the famous Irish Transport and General Workers Union (ITGWU), which became the country’s most influential union in less than three years.
Most workers respected him because of his outstanding work. The activist inspired many people and dedicated himself to ensuring that all laborers had the best working conditions.
He also struggled to make sure that the workers got the respect that they deserved. Larkin supported ideas that advocated for equity and social justice. In 1911, James created the Irish Worker and People’s Advocate, a weekly newspaper that sold over 20000 copies. It was among the city’s most powerful propaganda sheets at that time. The labor organizer purchased the Liberty Hall in 1912 to become the headquarters of ITGWU. Read more: Jim Larkin | Wikipedia
The ITGWU was responsible for leading all unskilled labor activities in the capital. This excluded the building trade, Dublin United Tramway Company (DUTC), Guinness’ Brewery, and the Corporation. The infamous Dublin Lockout that occurred in 1913 was motivated by a disagreement between the DUTC and James Larkin.
Over 100,000 workers participated in the industrial action that paralyzed the dock for months. The long strike devastated his union, and he flew to the United States in 1914 to seek funds to strengthen it. James led a group of protesters to stop the U.S from taking part in World War I. After a while, he openly started showing support for the Soviet Union and also organized illegal demonstrations.
James Larkin was sent to jail in 1919 and was deported in 1923 after being pardoned. His career in the labor movement sector failed to blossom after returning to Ireland since he did not have a lot of support. The activist died in 1947.