Ireland, Leader

Jim Larkin: 20th Century Labor Leader

Jim Larkin is regarded by many as being the most influential labor and union leader in Irish history. His effectiveness and actions were commended by George Bernard Shaw, and a statue in Jim Larkin’s honor stands prominently in Dublin.

Jim Larkin was born in Liverpool into a family that was in the working-class. At an early age, Mr. Larkin started working on the docks in order to help his family. Early on in his working life, Mr. Larkin came to be believe that workers were exploited by business owners.

Mr. Larkin believed that workers needed to be organized into strong trade unions so that they could collectively stand up against the business owners. He wanted the workers to demand increased wages and safer working conditions.

In 1908, Jim Larkin founded his own trade union known as the Irish Transport and General Workers’ Union. From 1908 through 1913, this trade union engaged in a number of strikes seeking better working conditions. In 1913, the Dublin Lockout saw over 100,000 workers strike.

Jim Larkin’s activity wasn’t limited to union organizing. He was active on the political front as well. In 1912, Mr. Larkin and his associates founded the Irish Labour Party. This party continues to be active to this day with seven members of the party serving in the Irish Parliament.

After a period of trying to seek labor union support in the United States, Jim Larkin returned to Ireland to work for worker’s rights and increased wages. Over the ensuing years, Jim Larking and the labor movement were successful in reducing the working hours in a day and in seeing working conditions improve. Read more: James Larkin | Biography and The Definite Biography of Big Jim Larkin – Irish Examiner

Jim Larkin passed away in 1947. The union that he created still works to organize workers and improve worker’s lives.