Labor movements in the United States get a lot of coverage in the history classes as the times were the beginning of the rise to power for the country. But in Ireland, there was a labor movement that goes relatively unnoticed; the movement to create labor unions in Ireland. Ireland’s non-existent labor union would be changed with the mind of Jim Larkin, aka Big Jim.
Jim Larkin was born in Liverpool, England in 1876 and growing up in the slums of the city, he grew up knowing how much a hard-working man’s labor was worth. When he joined the National Union of Dock Labourers in 1905, he became a full-time trade union organizer.
It was with the NUDL that his socialist ethics came to light as he was transferred to Dublin in 1907 after he organized militant strike methods to try and earn union workers a better pay.
Among his many accomplishments in Ireland were organizing the Irish Transportation and General Worker’s Union in 1907 and the Irish Labour Party. A year later, Larking and the Irish Transportation and General Worker’s Union outlined their political program, which included some aspects of a social security network, means for transportation, and arbitration courts.
The Irish Labour Party was responsible for the 1913 Dublin Lockout, where over 100,000 workers went on strike for eight months and earned the right to fair employment.
He went to the United States before the start of World War I to try and raise funds for Ireland to fight the British. After joining the Socialist Party of America and the Industrial Workers of the World, he formed the James Connolly Socialist Club in New York in 1918, after his friend James Connolly who died in the Easter Rising in Ireland.
He was convicted of criminal anarchy and communism and after three years was pardoned and was deported back to Ireland in 1920.
Jim Larkin died in 1947 and is remembered for his tireless work for the Irish labor movement.
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