Hometown Journey

The Life And Times Of Labor Activist Jim Larkin

Jim Larkin, who lived from 1876 to 1947, was labor organizer and activist. His family was Irish and he grew up in Liverpool, England’s slums. He wasn’t provided with an education and instead started doing labor jobs. Read more: James Larkin | Biography and James Larkin | Wikipedia

He eventually found work at the docks and became heavily involved in its labor union. He didn’t feel that workers were treated fairly by employers and vowed to personally do something about this. By 1905 he was working as a trade union organizer on a full-time basis.

He was a fan of militant strike methods, something that the leaders of his labor union found unsettling. They were able to get him transferred to Dublin which removed him as their problem. Jim Larkin started his own labor union, the Irish Transport and General Worker’s Union.

His goal was to represent all workers in Dublin. He held a series of strikes which eventually led to employers giving into some of his demands, such as the establishment of a 40 hour work week and pensions. Learn more about Jim Larkin: http://ireland-calling.com/james-larkin/ and http://www.rte.ie/centuryireland/index.php/articles/jim-larkin-released-from-prison

When World War I started, Jim Larkin led protests against Ireland getting involved. He wanted to fight against the British and in order to do so he traveled to America where he planned to raise funds. A few years later the police arrested him and he was charged with communism and criminal anarchy. He served three years in prison before he received a pardon and was put on the next boat back to Ireland.

Back in Ireland, Jim Larkin started another labor union, the Workers’ Union of Ireland. He was able to get the Communist International organization to recognize his union. He had been married and they had four sons together.

During this period he and his wife divorced and he ended up living with his sister and her husband. None of them liked this arrangement and after Jim Larkin moved out they never spoke to each other again. Jim Larkin was always a fiery person. He is said to have mellowed quite a bit during the 1930s. He moved politically more towards the center and dropped some of his more radical ideas.

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