When James Larkin died in January 1947, it brought down the curtain on the life of one of the leading trade movement activist whose influence extended beyond the trade movement realm.
Known by many within the political corridors and trade movement as Big Jim, James Larkin carved out a reputation for himself that has outlived him for many decades. His trade union movement exploits took him from Ireland to United States and back.
No matter the platform or country, Mr. Larkin retained his identity as a trade movement unionist with an unrelenting desire to ensure that workers working in better working environments. It was a passion that was not dampened by his relatively young age when he started or relatively advanced age when he died in 1947. Learn more about Jim Larkin: http://spartacus-educational.com/IRElarkin.htm
The Origin of the Passion for Trade Union Movement
James Larkin was not born in Ireland where his trade union movement made him a legend within the country’s trade movement circles. He was born in Liverpool, England in January 1876 into a relatively poor family. He therefore started eking out a living from a young age doing various manual jobs.
His quest for employment soon led him to the Liverpool dock where he was employed as a manual labourer. Dock workers worked in very poor conditions and despite their tasking daily routines, they were poorly paid. It was while working in these torrid conditions at the docks that James Larkin’s passion for trade union movement born.
He started agitating for better pay and working conditions for the dock workers and from there on he never looked back. Drawing from his newly found soft spot for socialism, James Larkin went on to become the symbol of trade union movement in Ireland.
Pushing for Socialism in Trade Movement
James Larkin joined the National Union of Dock Labourers (NUDL) and passionately championed for a cause he was passionate about. He soon became a full-time trade unionist and moved to Dublin, Ireland in 1907.
He championed for the use of strikes by workers to highlight the workers’ demands. It was in Dublin where he founded the Irish Transport and General Workers’ Union (ITGWU) to champion for the broad issues that affected Irish workers.
Through the new umbrella body, he championed for the rights of skilled and unskilled laborers including their right to fair pay and better working conditions. As a long time believer in picketing, James Larkin employed the tactic with relative success as the strikes grounded several public transport networks, which forced the authorities to listen to workers’ demands.
While serving as the head of ITGWU, James Larkin made inroads within Ireland’s political circle when he came together with James Connolly to cofound the Irish Labour Party. However, his political endeavors took a deserved break when he travelled to the United States on a lecture tour in 1914.
While overseas, he actively engaged in trade union movements in the country especially pushing for socialism ideologies. However, this got him into trouble and he was soon deported back to England for promoting Communism in the country. He returned to his political and trade union movement activities in Ireland, which saw him found Workers’ Union of Ireland in 1924 before his death in 1947.