James Larkin, the Irish labor leader, is the founder of Irish Transport and General Workers’ Union, ITGWU. This union was formed to syndicate all industrial workers from Irish origin into one organization that would work for their welfare.
ITGWU was one of the largest unions in England. The aim of ITGWU formation was industrial unionism and creation of a platform for all workers whether skilled or non-skilled. Born on January 21, 1876, Jim dedicated most of his life as an activist.
Having been raised from a low-income family, he was not able to acquire formal education, and he would engage in various manual jobs to cater for his family. Larkin even worked at Liverpool docks as a foreman. His desire to see that workers get fair employment terms led him to dive into socialism.
In 1905, Jim became a member of National Union of Dock Labourers. At NUDL, he became a full-time trade union organizer. In 1907, he was transferred to Dublin because the union was displeased by his strike action approach to solving problems.
It was in Dublin that he decided to form the ITGWU. The ITGWU marked a new beginning for the modern labor movement in Ireland. Before its formation, most Irish workers were members of British based unions.
In fact, these workers in unions constituted of only 10% of all Irish workers. In 1908, Larkin stipulated the ITGWU’s political program which demanded employment for all unemployed persons, pensions for all employees who are over 60 years and eight hours of work in a day.
Jim is also the founder of Irish Labour Party. He established this Party together with James Connoly in 1912. This union led a lot of strikes that advocated for employees’ rights. In 1913, the Party led the Dublin Lockout which resulted in the amendments of employment terms in favor of employees.
After the lockout which caused the strike of over 100,000 workers, ITGWU collapsed. Later on, Jim led anti-war demonstrations in Dublin during the initial stages of First world war urging Irish people to avoid participating in the war. It was at this time that he vacated to the US in search for funds to fight the British. At the US, he joined the Industrial Workers of the World and the Socialist Party of America in New York.
In 1919, Jim was arrested for criminal anarchy and communism and imprisoned for three years in Sing Sing. After his three years jail term, Larkin was released and deported back to Ireland. He went back to his activism and organized another Union dubbed Workers’ Union of Ireland in 1924.
This made him recognized by Communist International. Larkin enjoyed support from a lot of people including Constance Markievicz, William Butler Yeats, and Patrick Pearse. However, the Irish press never supported him. He soldiered on the duty of organizing labor until the 1940s.
He was elected as the Labour TD for North East Dublin in 1943. Though his way of activism involved boycotting of goods and sympathetic strikes, at no point did he include violence. Jim Larkin, later on, passed away in Ireland in 1947.