The Role of Jim Larkin in Irish Trade Unionism

Jim Larkin was an Irish trade unionist born in the slums of Liverpool, England, in January 1876. He had very little formal education and had to work various jobs. Jim was a devoted socialist from his youth who believed workers deserved fair treatment. He decided to join a trade union, National Union of Dock Labourers (NUDL).

However, his militant strike ideas were dreaded by the NUDL, and in 1907, the union relocated him to Dublin, Ireland. Irish Transport and General Workers’ Union (ITGWU) is a union that Jim founded at a time when only one in ten Irish workers was unionized. The union had a vision of bringing all Irish workers together. He advocated for employment for all, pensions for the elderly and 8 hours a day work.

ITGWU gained recognition in Ireland as a significant player in the Irish Trade Unions Congress. In 1912, the Congress agreed to the formation of the Labor Party. Larkin and James Connolly jointly founded the Irish Labor Party.

The party organized several strikes including during the Dublin lockout where over 100,000 workers downed their tools for eight months demanding fair employment. Learn more about Jim Larkin:

Though Larkin had massive support, the press was against his union and his methods. He staged antiwar demonstrations in Dublin at the outbreak of World War I. He urged Irishmen to shun the war.

In 1914, after the Dublin Lockout, ITGWU disintegrated, and Larkin moved to the United States and became a part of the Socialist Party of America hoping to raise funding for the workers’ movement.

On the death of Connolly in 1918, Larkin started James Connolly Socialist Club in New York. In 1920, he was incarcerated for criminal anarchy and released three years later.

He was extradited back to his home country in 1924 where he formed the Workers’ Union of Ireland and rejoined the Irish Labor Party in 1945. Communist International recognized his efforts to fight for benefits for workers. He remained engaged in Irish matters until his death in 1947.

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