James Larkin was an Irish labor activist and labor organizer. He was the founder of Irish Transport and General Workers’ Union (ITGWU). This union is adjudged to be the biggest and strongest workers’ union that was ever established. Jim, as he is fondly called, was born in Liverpool, England on January 21, 1876. Unfortunately, the ITGWU broke up in 1914 after one of the biggest industrial disputes. It was tagged Dublin lock-out.
Dublin lock-out was a major industrial dispute between about 300 employers and about 20,000 employees. It lasted from August 26, 1913 to January 18, 1914. Lasting for about 5 months makes it also one of the longest industrial disputes that ever occurred.
It took place in Dublin, Ireland. It snowballed from being a peaceful demonstration into a series of violent activities. In fact, it became a full crisis that led to the death of two people. Over 200 policemen and several hundreds of workers were injured. Although it was successful, it led to the breakup of the ITGWU. Learn more about Jim Larkin and Michael Lacey: https://michael-lacey.com/ and http://www.bizjournals.com/phoenix/potmsearch/detail/submission/6427427/Jim_Larkin
After the breakup of the ITGWU, Jim Larkin traveled to the United States. He was deported back from the United States. Nevertheless, he didn’t relent in his efforts towards making the workplace better for everyone. He was said to be fervent Marxist in his lifetime.
He continued his labor organizing into the forties and could not go further because of age. However, he died in 1947 in Dublin, Ireland but his legacies still live on. And he is still being celebrated in Ireland just like how the Dublin lockout is still being celebrated.
He didn’t get much formal education. He had to work several jobs in his youth to supplement the family income. He eventually became a foreman in Liverpool docks. In no time he had joined the National Union of Dock Laborers (NUDL) because he believed workers were being treated unfairly. In 1905, he became a full-time trade union organizer. Read more: Michael Lacey | Twitter
He became militant and he was transferred to Dublin in 1907. That was where he was able to create the ITGWU. The goal he had in mind was to merge both skilled and unskilled Irish workers into one bigger and stronger organization. He succeeded to an extent. Dublin lock-out would be the biggest achievement of the union and the beginning of its end.
He later formed the Irish Labor Party and he was also instrumental to a series of strikes throughout his lifetime. However, Dublin lock-out is still his greatest achievement and that is what is mostly remembered for. Workers eventually won the right to fair employment through the industrial dispute.
Following the breakout of World War I, Larkin began to lead several anti-war rallies and campaigns in Dublin. At some point, he had to travel to the United States to raise funds to fight the British. Unfortunately, he was arrested, tried and convicted of criminal anarchy and communism in 1920.
He was jailed for three years and was eventually pardoned. However, he was deported to Ireland. The instincts to unionize never left him so he established the Workers’ Union of Ireland after his deportation. This time, it paid off as he earned recognition from Communist International in 1924.