James Larkin the Pioneer Trade Unionist

Irish man James Larkin also famously known as Big Jim is a historical figure. Born in 1876 in the slums of Liverpool, England, James Larkin had little education.

With this minimal education, Big Jim could not secure any formal employment so he resorted to doing manual jobs at construction sites all around Liverpool. James went on to become a foreman at the Liverpool docks.

Being a socialist, James joined the dock workers union, the National Union of Dock Laborers (NUDL) that was committed to providing fair working conditions for unskilled laborers. In 1905, James became a full-time trade union organizer.

While at the NUDL, James Larkin organized several strikes and this caused alarm among the leadership of NUDL. James Larkin wanted to establish one organization that would fight for the rights of all workers, skilled and unskilled so he started the Irish Transportation and General Workers Union (ITGWU). Like all his previous organizations, ITGWU was aimed at achieving the ‘a fair pay for a fair day’ incentive.

With the help of, soon to become friend, James Connolly, Larkin formed the Irish Labor Party in 1912. The Irish Labor Party was responsible for a lot of strikes but the most memorable one was the 1913 strike that involved 100,000 workers and lasted more than seven months.

This mega strike finally won the Irish workers a right to fair employment. At the onset of the First World War, Larkin wrote to members of his union urging them not to participate in the war.

In 1914, James Larkin moved to America for a lecture tour. While James was still in America the Easter Uprising broke out in Ireland and his friend Connolly was killed. This led to the founding of the James Connolly Socialist Club of New York in 1918. In 1920, James was sent to prison for communism and criminal anarchy.

After serving three years of his sentence, James was released and deported to Ireland. In 1924, James’ efforts were recognized by Communist International. James continued to fight for the benefits of workers till his death in 1947.

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