To help his family survive James Larkin went to work while still a boy. Coming from a poor working class family living in Liverpool England he gravitated towards labor unions, Socialism, and ultimately Communism.
He would become a member of National Union of Dock Labourers (NUDL)becoming an organizer in 1905. Larkin’s strike strategies were too extreme for the NUDL. Consequently, he was sent to Dublin in 1907.
While in Dublin James Larkin organized the Irish Transport and General Workers’ Union (ITGWU). He envisioned a single union consisting of unskilled and skilled labor. Larkin set forth the objectives of the ITGWU to include the following.
- The nationalization of transportation systems
- Voting rights for adults
- Compulsory Arbitration Courts
- A pensions once a worker turned 60
- Jobs for the unemployed
- An eight hour work day
After the Irish Labour Party was organized in 1912 by James Larkin and James Connolly the Union staged a series of strikes. The strikes culminated in the “1913 Dublin Lockout” an attempt by employers to end unionism.
The strategy was successful for employers and a disaster for the ITGWU. After seven months workers were unable to endure the loss of wages any longer. The majority of strikers went back to work pledging to never join a labor union again.
In 1914 James Larking left Ireland to embark on what was supposed to be a world speaking tour. His first stop was the US where he would spend nine years. Some of them not of his own volition. Read more: Jim Larkin | Biography and Jim Larkin | Wikipedia
At the height of the Red Scare Larkin advocated for Communism. His newly adopted political philosophy garnered him a four stretch in Sing Sing Prison.
Deported to England in 1923 Larkin’s life went into a decade-long tailspin. His marriage dissolved and the status he had enjoyed as a labor leader was all but gone. With age, he became less radical.
In the 1940’s his reputation was partially restored by his opposition to the “Trade Union Act”. Born January 21, 1876, James Larkin died January 30, 1947.