James Larkin, the Dublin Labor Leader

James Larkin, born January 21, 1876 was a complicated character, seen as the father of the ITGWU and its major agitator. He grew up to be a labor organizer, eventually establishing the Irish Transport and General Workers’ Union (ITGWU) in 1907 in Dublin. He grew up in the slums of Liverpool, U.K. Having little formal education, he eventually obtained a job working on the Liverpool docks, where he became a foreman.

Early on, Larkin was committed to the fair treatment of workers. While working on the docks, he joined the National Union of Dock Laborers (NUDL). He advanced to be a fill-time trade union organizer at the NUDL.

Larkin shocked the NUDL with his militant strike methods. The NUDL sent him to Dublin to lessen his influence on their workers.

In Dublin, Larkin continued his militant work, eventually establishing the Irish Transport and General Workers’ Union which staged a strike that lasted eight months and included 100,000 workers. Their efforts forced the company owners to give in to their demands of fair employment. This event was dubbed the “Dublin Lockout” of 1913. Learn more about James Larkin: http://www.bbc.co.uk/history/british/easterrising/profiles/po08.shtml and http://www.historyireland.com/20th-century-contemporary-history/big-jim-larkin-hero-and-wrecker/

During the years that he headed the ITGWU, he was constantly embattled with his rival, James Connolly for leadership of the organization. Even though they both saw the union almost identically, they butted heads often.

Larkin sought to strengthen the voice of the union, so he began to publish a paper called “The Irish Worker”. Larkin proved to be a talented editor. By 1911, the ITGWU grew to have 50,000 members.

James Larkin had risen so fast and so far that he began fighting with his inner demons. While the unfair plight of his fellow man troubled him, he constantly struggled with his love of praise and admiration.

This became very evident after 404 Dublin men fought off 20,000 workers because they trusted Larkin. This proved to many that James Larking was a much trusted and respected labor leader.

Larkin moved to the U.S. after his time with the ITGWU, but joined forces with socialist and communist, which got him arrested for criminal anarchy in 1919. He was pardoned in 1923 and deported to England.

In 1924, he helped his brother, Peter and his son, Jim launch the communist’s version of a labor union, the Worker’s Union of Ireland (WUI).

The Catholic Church moved against communism in the 1930’s which forced Larkin to become more centrist. In 1943, he gained the title of TD for the ITGWU in North East Dublin. Larkin died in 1947 after falling through a floor while supervising repairs on the WUI’s Thomas Ashe Hall.

Read more: James Larkin | Ireland Calling and Jim Larkin | Biography