Jim Larkin: The Voice of the Working Class

Jim Larkin, a leading trade union leader and politician in the U.K., is considered as the voice of the working class considering his fights for the workers and their massive support. He is known for a number of significant campaigns and strikes that changed the destiny of the labor organizations in the country.

Larkin was born in Liverpool in 1876 and could not complete his primary education. He started working several odd jobs from the childhood to support himself and the family.

By shaping a socialist mindset, Larkin worked for the fairer conditions of the laborers across the industries. Initially, he worked with National Union of Dock Laborers and started working as a full-time organizer.

In 1907, NUDL moved James Larkin to Dublin as they could not cooperate with him in Liverpool. The same year, he became the founder of Irish Transport and General Workers’ Union, the largest union of Ireland. With the union, he dreamt of bringing all the workers, irrespective of whether they are unskilled or skilled, into one union that can play a significant role in seeking the welfare of all.

Next year, Larkin devised the action plan of the union. It included standard eight-hour work per day, pension for workers above the age of 60, and better accessibility to work for the unemployed.

Jim Larkin also demanded some political rights as well including adult suffrage, the establishment of arbitration courts, and nationalization of railways, canals, and other means of transport. He also exhorted that the land of Ireland should be for the people of Ireland. In the year 1912, Larkin established the Irish Labor Party and led many protests, including the 1913 Dublin Lockout. Read more: James Larkin | Biography

The Dublin Lockout was to help the casual workers considering their limited rights and unfair compensation plans. The Lockout saw more than 100,000 workers participating the strike that went almost eight-month. It gave a major success to both Larkin and his party considering the Lockout ensured fair rights to the casual workers.

In the next year, Larkin visited the U.S. as part of a lecture tour and for a fundraising campaign to fight against the British. While he was in the U.S., he also joined the Industrial Workers of the World and the Socialist Party of America.

In the later years, he played a larger role in the American labor unions and left-wing activities. In 1920, he was prosecuted for communism and criminal anarchy and sentenced to eight years. However, after three years, Larkin got pardoned and deported back to Ireland.

In 1924, he established and started leading the Workers’ Union of Ireland by earning recognition for the trade union from the Communist International.

The failures of ITGWU in addressing the needs of the workers, helped WUI to gain significant acceptance among the workers, and two-thirds of the ITGWU Dublin workers joined WUI. In the later years, Larkin associated with the Irish Labor Party and continued his works until his death in 1947. He is remembered as one of the most prominent trade union leaders of the 20th century.

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