James Larkin Biography

James Larkin (January 21, 1876 – January 30, 1947) was an Irish activist, considered one of the founders of the modern labor movement in the country.

Growing up in the poorer areas of Liverpool, England, “Big Jim” Larkin had little education and took a variety of jobs to help support his struggling family. In 1903 he became the foreman of the city’s docks; over time he developed an interest in socialism and joined the National Union of Dock Labourers (NUDL). Learn more about Jim Larkin: https://www.irishtimes.com/culture/books/big-jim-larkin-hero-or-wrecker-review-when-big-jim-looked-small-1.2524094

Larkin became a full-time union organizer in 1905, but his methods proved controversial―by 1910 he had been expelled for violating NUDL instructions and prosecuted for diverting the organization’s funds to striking workers in Cork. (He was pardoned after three months in prison.) After this, he moved to Dublin. Read more James Larkin | Wikipedia and  The Definite Biography of Big Jim Larkin – Irish Examiner

In 1909, Larkin started the Irish Transport and General Workers’ Union (ITGWU), meant to be a single organization to unite all of Ireland’s workers. He founded another, similar organization, the Workers’ Union of Ireland (WUI), in 1924; in 1990, the two would merge into the Services, Industrial, Professional and Technical Union (SIPTU).

Larkin also helped establish the Irish Labour Party in 1912, along with James Connolly and William X. O’Brien. Around this time he also coined his famous motto, “A fair day’s work for a fair day’s pay.”

The following year, he led the Dublin Lockout, which saw 100,000 workers striking for seven months. It ended in 1914 without having achieved most of its goals, but is nevertheless seen as a seminal moment of the labor movement for establishing the methodology and power of unionization.

Larkin spent a few years in America, eventually being deported back to Ireland for Communist activities; indeed, much of his activism in later years involved close contact with the Soviet Union. He would rejoin the Labour Party in the 1940s, however, and continued to work for better working conditions until his death in 1947.

In terms of his personal life, Larkin married Elizabeth Brown in 1903 and had four sons; two of them, James Jr. and Denis, took up similar political careers as their father.

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