James (Jim) Larkin was an Irish activist who lived from January 21st, 1876, until January 30th, 1947. He was a well-known labor organizer who was the founder of the Irish Transport and General Workers’ Union (ITGWU) which was one of the largest unions in Ireland until it fell apart after the notorious Dublin Lockout.
He emigrated to the United States in 1914 and lived in the United States for a number of years before being deported back to Ireland where he eventually died.
Jim Larkin was born in a very poor area in Liverpool, England. He was the one who coined the very well known term, A fair day’s work for a fair day’s pay”. He received a minimal education while growing up and when he was old enough he did a number of manual jobs.
Eventually, Jim Larkin became a foreman at the Liverpool docks while he also developed his work and social beliefs. He became a socialist and strong advocate of fair conditions for workers. He took on the position of trade union organizer for the National Union of Dock Labourers (NUDL) as his full-time job in 1905.
The leaders of NUDL eventually came to dislike the ways that Jim Larkin took strike actions against companies. It was after he was moved to Dublin that he founded the ITGWU where he invited both skill and unskilled laborers to organize under one umbrella for all workers rights.
Among the main things he fought for was eight-hour workdays, the opportunity for employment for all those who were unemployed, and the availability of pensions for all workers under the age of 60. As a socialist, he also wanted to nationalize infrastructure such as transportation including canals and railways.
How Jim Larkin organized strikes was by holding sympathetic strikes as well as boycotting the goods of targeted companies. He didn’t allow any members to use violence against anyone including strike-breakers. He knew violence would ruin the companies which would mean no jobs for his members.
While in the United States from 1914 to 1920, Jim Larkin went on a lecture tour across the nation. He eventually stayed in New York City and joined the Socialist Party of America.
After being convicted of being a communist and engaging in criminal anarchy he was deported back to Ireland. He spent the rest of his life working for the rights of workers so that they were justly paid for their work.