Jim Larkin, a.k.a. “Big Jim” was born in Liverpool, England on January 21, 1876. He grew up in humble conditions and without much schooling. Left with few choices, he found work where he could, eventually landing a job as foreman on the docks in his hometown.
A Marxist and socialist at heart, Larkin created the Irish Transport and General Workers’ Union (ITGWU). It was Larkin’s first attempt to unionize workers. Learn more about Jim Larkin: http://www.historyireland.com/20th-century-contemporary-history/big-jim-larkin-hero-and-wrecker/ and http://www.rte.ie/centuryireland/index.php/articles/jim-larkin-released-from-prison
Larkin held the belief that workers were treated poorly by employers. In forming the ITGWU, he sought to raise concerns over unfair labor practices through strikes and protests.
In 1913, he engineered the Dublin Lockout in which over 100,000 laborers took to the picket lines to gain better working conditions. After almost eight months of strikes, the workers emerged victorious.
Big Jim’s efforts, however, were not limited to labor. He was also passionately opposed to the outbreak of World War I and the sacrifice of Irish fighters for a cause Larkin felt was not worth the price. In response, Larkin led numerous anti-war protests in Dublin.
Jim Larkin, Socialist –
James Larkin was known for being a fair man and a man of principle. He believed in leading his followers by example. He drew inspiration from the Bolshevik Revolution and became a devout member of the Socialist Party.
Larkin would take things a step further by trying to convert the Socialist Party into the Communist Party, a move that would lead to his arrest on charges of promoting communism. To this day, he is known as one of Sing Sing’s most infamous residents. With J. Edgar Hoover’s blessings, he was later deported back to Ireland.
In remembering “Big Jim” it is important to honor the man who fought for unskilled laborers, the little man with no voice. It was Larkin who argued for the establishment of the eight-hour work day, and it was he who spoke in defense of the plight of the unemployed.
And, if not for James Larkin, there may never have been a pension system for retirees.
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