Jim Larkin: Irish Labor Hero

He was born in England in 1876 to Irish parents, but he spent most of his life in Ireland. Jim Larkin started life in modest circumstances; however, he earned a huge reputation in his lifetime–one that lasts even eight decades after his death in 1947.

Due to his family’s poverty, Jim Larkin began his working life while still in elementary school. By his 20s, he was working on the docks and, in 1903, he was a dock foreman.

It was this position that led to his rise to prominence within the labor movement. He became involved in a strike in 1905, which cost him his job but led to another–temporary organizer for the National Union of Dock Labourers (NUDL).

Larkin’s involvement in the labor union movement was anything but temporary, however. He worked with NUDL for a while. When he parted ways with the group, he created the Irish Transport and General Workers’ Union (ITGWU). Within a few years of its founding in 1908, it had grown into the largest trade union in Ireland. Read more: James Larkin | Ireland Calling and Jim Larkin | Wikipedia

After the Dublin Lockout in 1913, Larkin was forced to scramble to raise more money for ITGWU. This led to him traveling to the U.S. However, due to his political views, he soon found himself caught up in the First Red Scare. He spent some time in prison due to this, but he was later pardoned and deported back to Ireland.

Larkin spent the rest of his life active in labor and politics. His passion for politics was inherited by his sons. Sons James Larkin Jr. and Denis Larkin both spent significant portions of their adult lives as Irish Labour Party politicians and trade union officials.

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