No matter what one thinks about the socialist beliefs and ideals of Irish trade unionist and political leader, Jim Larkin, the impact of the Liverpool, England-born man is difficult to ignore. Larkin is perhaps most famous around the world as the social commentator who stated, “a fair day’s work, for a fair day’s pay.”
Despite being born in Liverpool, Larkin is most associated with Dublin, Ireland where his short impact as the founder and leader of the Irish Transport and General Workers Union changed the way the people of the nation lived their lives.
The life of Jim Larkin has often been overshadowed by his friend and political partner, James Connolly who would be immortalized as one of the leaders who died as a result of his role in the 1917 Easter Rising against the English. Read more: James Larkin | Ireland Calling and Jim Larkin | Wikipedia
Commentators on his life have often explained Jim Larkin could be distrustful of those he saw as a threat to his own career and would go out of his way not to promote those he felt would eventually usurp his power.
Larkin became famous in Ireland for setting out a political manifesto in 1912 upon his establishment of the Irish Labour Party which is now similar to the working rights of the modern worker. Under the manifesto written by Larkin, Irish workers would be afforded the right to a standardized eight hour work day, adult suffrage, arbitration courts, and a pension when workers turned 60.
The career of Jim Larkin looked set for prolonged political success when the 1913 Dublin Lockout turned the media of the time and conservative business-owners against him.
Larkin had never used violence against strikebreakers as he understood the demolition of industry in Dublin would destroy the jobs of those he was fighting for when he led a 100,000 worker strike in the heart of Ireland.
Soon after the lockout ended, Larkin moved to the U.S. but misread the Irish situation and found himself imprisoned after joining the Socialist Workers Party.
The trade union leader would eventually return to Ireland and win election to office with the Labour Party before his death and eventual public rehabilitation for his work in modernizing Ireland’s labor laws.