Born in Liverpool, England, Jim Larkin began working as a dock foreman at a young age. After he noticed the unfair treatment of the workers there, he joined the National Union of Dock Laborers, and by 1905, became an active and passionate full-time labor organizer. Due to the methods he used to push for a fair work environment, the NUDL transferred him to Dublin, Ireland, where he eventually started another union known as the ITGWU, which stands for Irish Transport and General Worker’s Union. This union was formed to combine all the Irish industrial workers, both skilled and unskilled into one organization.
The ITGWU became the area’s biggest union, and Jim Larkin became famous for leading many strikes, including one called the Dublin Lockout, which took place in 1913 and involved more than 100,000 workers going on strike for almost 8 months. This major walkout led to the group winning the right to fair employment. After achieving the desired results with this strike, Jim Larkin traveled to the U.S. in 1914 and continued his efforts to organize workers, but ended up later getting deported back to Ireland after being convicted and pardoned of anarchy and communism in 1920.
After returning to Dublin, the activist organized yet another union called the Worker’s Union of Ireland, and by 1924, he was recognized by Communist International. He also staged a big anti-war demonstration when World War I started, and his previous trip to the U.S. had been due in part to him trying to raise money to fight the British military. Jim Larkin, whose birth name was James Larkin, did not get much of a formal education, but he developed his skill for organizing after he’d worked a number of jobs when he was very young in order to help supplement his family’s income.
His passion for labor union organizing lasted into the 1940s, and it was because of his ability to use strategic methods to protect workers that he came to be known as one of the pioneers of fair employment advocacy. Jim Larkin was a married father of 4 sons, and he died in Dublin, Ireland in 1947.