James Larkin, A Champion of Irish Laborers

James Larkin was born in Liverpool, England in 1874 and worked as a foreman at the city’s docks. He believed in fighting for the rights of his fellow laborers, and after observing the unjust treatment meted out to them, he joined the National Union of Dock Laborers (NUDL), becoming an organizer for the trade union by 1905.

His vision of protesting policies and measures against the interests of laborers through striking did not align with the mission of the NUDL, leading to his transfer to Ireland in 1907 where he set up his own trade union, the Irish Transport and General Workers’ Union.

Less than 10% of Irish workers took part in trade union activities at the time, with most of those unions being British. The negligence on the part of the British agencies with regards to Irish laborers and their rights led to James Larkin founding the ITGWU.

The labor movement under the ITGWU remained slow and the response was lukewarm until 1911 when Larkin founded the Irish Worker, a trailblazing paper that helped garner greater support for the cause of the Irish worker.

Thus, when the Great Labor Unrest began a while later, Larkin responded well to the conflict, resulting in a tripling of ITGWU membership. This led to it wielding significant power in the Irish Trades Union Congress, which helped in the establishment of the Labor Party in 1912.

Larkin and the ITGWU were at the peak of their fame when the Dublin Lockout of 1913 took place. The Dublin lockout was one of the most important events that redefined the future of the Irish labor. This lockout lasted more than an entire semester, and it comprised of civil disputes, in the middle of Dublin’s streets, between workers and their employers.

James Larkin was one of the key participants that made the entire dispute happen, as he was the leader of the common workers and was representing their interests in having better work conditions and a fair income ratio.

William Murphy, the chairman of the Dublin United Tramway Company, was opposed to the unionization of Irish laborers, which led to him agreeing with over 400 other employers to lock out about 20,000 suspected unionists from their work. The lockout lasted for about 5 months before the starving workers caved in and agreed to no longer join trade unions.

The ITGWU took a great blow and James Larkin traveled to the United States, seeking a new life as a socialist public speaker. His side lost the Dublin Lockout, so James Larkin had decided that he would continue his quest of helping his community, but as a public speaker.

He later joined the Socialist Party in New York and was later arrested in 1919 on charges of criminal anarchy, before being deported to England 4 years later.

During his years in the United States, he also had a significant role in the period of World War I. He was raising funds to help defeat the British forces, and he was slightily successful in this role, until he settled down.

In the end, he died married, in 30 of January, 1947, and had four children.

Learn more about Jim Larkin:  http://www.irishexaminer.com/lifestyle/artsfilmtv/books/the-definitive-biography-of-big-jim-larkin-372254.html