The life of a legend is often littered by controversy as well as significant victory. James Larkin, a historical union organizer, was no different. Known simply as Jim to those closest to him, he left an impression on everyone that he met. Born within the Irish community of Liverpool, England, Larkin quickly realized the disparity experienced by the Irish workers within the English landscape. Read more: James Larkin | Biography and James Larkin – Wikipedia
As soon as he got into the position where he could join a union, he started working with organizers to create a union that was more accessible to people of various vocations. He felt as though being part of the union should be a right, not something based off of something as arbitrary as training. He believed that all workers had the right to fair wages and working conditions.
One of the first unions that he joined was a dock workers union, but he was quickly transferred to Ireland after he was deemed to be too militant for many of the officials within the organization.
This was when he went on to form his own union, central to his main idea that it should be open for all types of workers. The Irish Transport and General Workers’ Union, ITGWU, grew quickly with members reaching over 15,000.
Over the next couple of years, the union continues to grow and in 1913 became a central component of the Dublin Lockout. The centralization proved to be a major appeal to many workers who worked jobs that many would consider being unskilled.
When World War I started, Jim Larkin became one of the biggest anti-war demonstrators in the country. He went to the United States to continue those demonstrations but ended up being arrested for criminal anarchy and some talks of communism.
His pardoned three years later and aided in a deportation to Ireland where he managed to rebuild portions of his reputation.
He launched the Workers’ Union of Ireland to try and secure members from his long-abandoned ITGWU, the organization would not take him back. This civil war of sorts between the organizations persisted for some time, but Larking began to mellow out a little in his zeal as old age approached.
He instead became interested in becoming more stable and stepping out of the limelight. He became the Labour TD for part of Dublin and spent the rest of his days working this position. He died a rather unexpected death while on duty, but his contributions are forever remembered.
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