Irish Labor Movement Salutes Movement Father Jim Larkin

Jim Larkin is roundly considered the father of the Irish labor movement. His decades of hard work and commitment towards the common people of his country helped usher in new laws regarding unions and workers rights. Read more: Jim Larkin | Biography and James Larkin | Ireland Calling

Larkin was born in Liverpool, England in 1876. Although he had no formal education and was forced to work at a young age due to his family’s poverty-stricken circumstances, he secured a dock foreman position at the age of 29. It didn’t take long for Larkin to see the injustices that were taking place in the workforce.

Workers had to work long hours, paid slave wages and forced to work in unsafe conditions. Because of his interest in human rights and socialism, he became a member of the Independent Labour Party. Much to the chagrin of his employer, he became a full-time union organizer.

Larkin helped workers go on strike in several parts of Ireland. In 1907, he helped organize a dockworkers strike in Belfast. Within a month, the strike was settled. Although his falling out with the secretary of the National Union of Dock Labourers James Sexton, resulted in his expulsion, he continued to help workers organize.

After Larkin founded the Irish Transport and General Worker’s Union (ITGWU), he was involved in one of the most severe disputes in Irish history — The Dublin Lockout of 1913. The lockout involved over 20,000 workers and 300 businesses. The core of the dispute centered on the right to unionize.

The strike lasted for several months. Dublin United Tramway Company president William Murphy was determined not to allow his business to be unionized. He fought tooth and nail, and even dismissed several workers he suspected of working with unions.

At the end of the strike, many workers were forced to sign non-union pledges. Several businesses went under, and many workers opted to go into the military because strike activities resulted in a loss of employment.

Larkin went to the U.S. to help with union organization. After several years, he returned to Ireland. He was able to mend fences with some of his detractors. He also became a officer of the Labour Party.

He died in 1947.

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