Jim Larkin is considered by many to be the father of the Irish worker’s movement. Born in the impoverished slums of Liverpool, England, he witnessed first hand how the common man was treated by rich capitalists whose only concern was to make a buck off the back of slave labor.
Larkin joined the Irish Communist Party at a young age. After several years of working the docks, he was named foreman. A short time later, he became a union organizer. This didn’t set well with employers who were firmly against worker’s rights. He was impressed the leaders of the National Union Dock Laborers to the point that he was sent to help with unionization efforts in Scotland.
Larkin became fully-immersed in socialism and joined the Independent Labour Party. He began seriously working for the trade union movement in 1907. He successfully united Protestants and Catholics and helped Belfast organize a city workers strike. It was about this time where a rift in the relationship between Larkin NUDL secretary Jimmy Sexton reached its peak.
After several more years of organizing, Larkin founded the Irish Transport and General Worker’s Union. He also established the newspaper Irish Workers and People’s Advocate. The paper called out Larkin’s political foes and industries that were mistreating workers.
The Dublin Lockout of 1913 was probably one of the most devastating union incidents in history. The lockout was due to strife between 30,000 workers and about 400 businesses. While it was Larkin’s goal to gain rights for workers, it did far more harm than good in the long run. At the end of the lockout, many workers were dead due to breakouts of violence. Additionally, United Tramsway owner William Martin Murphy was determined not to relent. He punished many striking workers by terminating them. They ones who were not had to sign a pledge to not get involved with union activities.
Jim Larkin also spend several years in American helping with strikes. He had some successes and failures. He returned to Ireland and became a deputy in 1943. He died in 1947, and went down in history as one of the most prolific labor organizers ever.