Labour Activist, James Larkin

James Larkin, nicknamed “Big Jim,” was born on January 21, 1876 in Liverpool, England. He worked several jobs as a child so help add to the family’s scant income, getting little formal education. Learn more about Jim Larkin: http://www.bbc.co.uk/history/british/easterrising/profiles/po08.shtml and http://www.historyireland.com/20th-century-contemporary-history/big-jim-larkin-hero-and-wrecker/

Becoming a passionate socialist and disliking the poor treatment workers received, he entered a life-long career in the labour movement by joining the National Union of Dock Labourers (NUDL) by age 29. His militant-like methods quickly alarmed the NUDL, who distanced themselves from him by moving him to Dublin. Regardless, Larkin was noted for avoiding violence where possible.

By 1907 he had founded the Irish Transport and General Workers’ Union (ITGWU) in hopes of bringing together industrial workers into one group, whether skilled or unskilled.

This is considered the start of the modern Irish labour movement, as at the time less than ten percent of Irish workers were unionized. Under Larkin’s guidance, the ITGWU made a stir when it began publishing the paper, the Irish Worker, leading to a massive increase in members.

In 1912, with the permission of the Irish Trades Union Congress, he formed the Irish Labour Party with ally James Connolly. It was through this party that he helped conduct several labor strikes.

The largest and most significant was the 1913 Dublin Lockout in which over 100,000 workers went on strike for almost eight full months before at last winning the right to fair employment, though the stress proved detrimental to Larkin’s health. Read more: Jim Larkin | Biography and James Larkin | Ireland Calling

He later led large anti-war demonstrations in Dublin once World War I broke out, then traveled to the United States to give lectures and collect funds for fighting the British.

While still in the states, he was charged with criminal anarchy and communism in 1920, before being pardoned three years later and deported back to Ireland. There, he organized the Workers’ Union of Ireland, which received recognition for its efforts by Communist International in 1924.

Though mellowing with age, he remained active in the labour movement on until his death on January 30, 1947 in Dublin, Ireland, just nine days after his 71st birthday.