Jim Larkin is an Irish labor activist and the founder of one of the largest Irish labor movement in history the Irish Transport and General Workers Union ITGWU. Jim was born in 1876 in Liverpool, England. James grew up in Liverpool, and his parents could barely afford to take him to a good school to have formal education.
James, as a result, started working in the informal sector and did a series of manual jobs before being appointed as a foreman at the Liverpool docks. James while working at the docks developed a passion for fighting for workers right. He believed that many workers were not treated fairly by their employers and their rights were being violated. These prompted him to join a workers Union going by the name National Union of Dock Laborers (NUDL). Read more: James Larkin | Biography
By the year 1905, Jim had already turned into a full-time workers activist and was appointed to the position of organizing secretary at NUDL. As the lead organizer, Larkin organized a series of strike using the militant strike method something that was not received well by NUDL union officials.
As a result, Larkin was transferred to represent workers in Dublin in 1907. It is here at Dublin that Larkin founded Irish Transport and General Workers Union. Larkin formed the Union with the aim of creating one of the strongest Irish workers unions that would incorporate both the skilled and unskilled workers.
ITGWU became the first modern Irish Labor movement. Only close to 10% of Irish workers at that time belonged to any union, and all of them were in British based Unions.
By the year 1911, there was not much to report about ITGWU as it became an anti-climax of the expectations of the Irish workers. In 1911 Jim rather than conducting expensive strike opted to use other means to advocate for the right of workers and as a result founded the Irish Worker and People’s Advocate newspaper. The newspaper became a success as it was very popular and showed Jim as an editor with real abilities.
Larkin would later form the Irish Labor Party which would lead some industrial actions by workers. The party employed the use of sympathetic strikes method, boycotting of goods. It is at this point that Larkin came up with the famous slogan ‘’A fair day’s work for a fair day’s pay”. The major companies that were targeted by the Irish Party in the strikes were Guinness and the Dublin United Tramway Company.
In 1913 Larkin organized one of the most severe industrial strikes in Dublin which was referred as the Dublin Lockout. The strike attracted more than 100,000 workers and lasted for nearly seven months. By the end of the seven months, the union achieved its goal of advocating for the fair rights of workers.
However, this was the beginning of the downfall of ITGWU. Larkin’s constant attack of the British Trade Union Congress led to the cessation of funding to the Union. Due to financial constraint at the union, Larkin left for the US to raise funds for the union.
Once in the US Larkin joined the Socialist Party of America. Larkin was later convicted of anarchy and communism in the US and was sentenced there. After serving for three years, he was pardoned and deported back to Ireland.