James Larkin was born on January 28th in Liverpool, England. He is known to many as an Irish activist and organizer of labor movements. He founded the General Workers Union and the Irish Transport. He grew up in the slums of Liverpool and did not access much formal education.
During his youth days, he was forced to do manual jobs to support his family before he became a foreman at the Liverpool docks. James Larkin joined the National Union of Dock Laborers (NUDL) based on his beliefs that workers were being mistreated.
James Larkin outlined the political program of ITGWU in 1908 which is an eight hours day legal work provision for all workers of sixty years. Larkin’s strategic moves included a boycott of goods and sympathetic strikes. He had long realized that he could not build a strong trade union by destroying the firms in which its members worked; thus, violence was never an option for him.
Later on, Larkin formed the Irish Labor Party and led a series of strikes. One of the most remarkable strikes that he organized was the 1913 Dublin Lockout in which more than one hundred thousand workers refused to work for close to eight months, and in the end, earned the right to fair employment.
During the onset of World War I, James Larkin organized demonstrations against the war in Dublin and traveled to the United States to source funds which he used to fight the British.
During this time, he joined the industrial workers of the world and the socialist party of America. James Larkin was convicted of communism and criminal anarchy in 1920 and was pardoned after three years. James Larkin was deported to Ireland where he ended up forming the Workers’ Union of Ireland.
Larkin formed the Workers Union of Ireland, and in 1945, he joined the Irish Labor party and continued to work for the benefits of workers until the time of his death on 30th January 1947. He remains a legendary figure in workers unions.
Learn more about Jim Larkin: