What Modern Laborers’ Union can Learn from Jim Larkin’s Activism

Jim Larkin, officially known as James Larkin, was an activist and labor organizer hailing from Ireland. Larkin is also credited with being the brains behind the Irish Transport and General Workers’ Union. The union proliferated to become one of the leading workers’ unions in Ireland.

Earlier Life

Jim was born on the 21st of January, 1874 in Liverpool, England. He was brought up by his low-income parents in the slums of Liverpool. His humble beginnings were some of the factors that contributed to his success as a labor leader. Learn more about Jim Larkin: http://www.rte.ie/centuryireland/index.php/articles/jim-larkin-released-from-prison

When he was growing up, he only got access to little formal education because his parents could not afford to take him to a fancy school. Jim Larkin had no other choice than to do odd jobs to supplement his family’s income.

After handling several odd jobs, he was fortunate enough to be employed as a foreman at a dock in Liverpool. He was ambitious about fighting for the rights of workers.

This is because he believed that workers should be treated fairly. Larkin managed to secure a job at the National Union of Dock Labourers (NUDL). In 1905, he also managed to become a full-time trade organizer.

The Irish Transport and General Workers Union

As he was working with NUDL, he led hundreds of workers in peaceful protests. His major concern was on how these individuals were treated at their respective workplaces. NUDL transferred him to Dublin because of his role in orchestrating these peaceful protests. Read more: Jim Larkin | Wikipedia

During his stay in Dublin, he decided to form the Irish Transport and General Workers’ Union based on his encounters at NUDL.

ITGWU’s goal was to unite all skilled and unskilled Irish workers. Jim Larkin had a vision of forming an organization from this unity. His vision came to reality after he founded the Labor Party whose role was to lead a series of strikes and peaceful protests.

The Labor Party is known for leading the 1913 Dublin Lockout that involved over 100,000 workers on strike. After taking place for eight months, the participants won the right to fair employment as the strike ended.

The Irish Transport and General Workers’ Union collapsed after the 1913 Dublin Lockout. Jim Larkin relocated to the U.S., but he was later deported. Jim and his wife, Elizabeth Brown, had four sons. Despite the fact that ITGWU collapsed, Jim was a staunch Marxist. He continued his activism for laborers until his death on the 30th of January, 1947.

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