Jim Larkin: Irish Folk Hero and Labor Organizer


As an activist, folk hero, and Irish labor organizer, Jim Larkin, founder of the Irish Transport General Workers’ Union, was a man of conviction and high moral standards who was determined to see Irish people win the right to fair employment. He was born on January 21, 1876, in Liverpool, England, and grew up in the poorer parts of Liverpool.

\With not much formal education, Jim helped his family out by working different jobs when he was younger and before long became a foreman at the Liverpool docks. After this time he committed himself to the sole purpose of seeing workers get treated fairly.

In 1905 Jim Larkin became a trade union organizer with the National Union of Dock Labourers (NUDL) and later formed the Irish Labour Party. In 1907 he started up the General Workers’ union and the Irish Transport and worked hard to convince all industrial workers to join into one single union.

Eventually he put together a strike for the city of Belfast’s dock workers and was able to unite Protestants and Catholics alike to join in the same cause; something that rarely happened at that time in history. The local Royal Irish Constabulary even took part in the strike, but in the end, the strike didn’t succeed in getting what the workers needed.

In 1910 Jim was persecuted and convicted of embezzling funds from the NUDL in order to give them to Cork workers who were in a labor dispute. Learn more about Jim Larkin: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Q8QqK8YbbaI and http://spartacus-educational.com/IRElarkin.htm

He was sentenced to a year in prison, and because many people considered it an unjust ruling, Lord Aberdeen pardoned him after he served only three months of his sentence.

In 1913 Jim Larkin took the Irish Labour Party to its heights by leading many different strikes. Part of these conflicts included the amazing war of 404 employers versus more than 20,000 workers, which brought Jim international recognition and put a spotlight on the plight of the workers there.

Jim also lead the Dublin Lockout, which included 100,000 workers going on strike for almost eight straight months. These strikes eventually won them the fair employment rights they were looking for.

After his work in Ireland, Jim Larkin moved on to the United States for some time and became a socialist speaker, activist, and member of the Socialist Party of America who was involved with workers rights. He later moved back to Ireland where he continued to support community workers rights efforts.