Irish labor movement leader Jim Larkin was born Jan. 21, 1876, in a poverty-stricken section of London. He worked tirelessly over the years to help disadvantaged workers become unionized. Before he became leader of the National Union of Dock Laborers (NUDL), only about 10% of workers belonged to a union.
Because of his disposition, Larkin grew up with little education. He was forced to go to work at a young age to help support his family. He worked a number of jobs and finally became a dock foreman in 1903. It was during this time that he witnessed the mistreatment of workers up close and personal.
In 1905, he participated in a dockworkers strike and ultimately lost his job. After joining the Independent Labor Party, he was appointed to the position of union organizer. In 1906, he was sent by the union to help organize union workers in Glasgow and Preston Scotland. Learn more about Jim Larkin: http://www.rte.ie/centuryireland/index.php/articles/jim-larkin-released-from-prison
Larkin continued to work for Ireland’s trade movement. He led a successful dock workers strike in Belfast when wage demands weren’t met. It was also during this time when tensions rose between NUDL president James Sexton and Larkin. After his expulsion from the NUDL, he founded the Irish Transport and General Worker’s Union (ITGWU). Read more: Jim Larkin | Wikipedia and James Larkin | Ireland Calling
Although Larkin continued to face opposition from members community, he organized many successful strikes. He also founded the Irish Worker and People’s Advocate to call out businesses that failed to pay descent wages and provide a safe workplace.
In 1913, Larkin helped organize the Dublin Lockout. This proved to be the most significant labor dispute in Ireland’s history. The cause of dispute centered around workers rights, specifically the right to unionize and poor working conditions.
Approximately 20,000 workers and 300 businesses were at the core of the conflict. In the end, the lockout failed to unionize, badly damaged the reputation of the IWGTU and allowed workers employment only if they signed non-union pledges.
Even this defeat didn’t stop Larkin. He continued his efforts to unionize in the U.S. After returning to Dublin in 1923, he won an office seat, which helped him run the Labor Party.