James Larkin founded the Irish Transport and General Worker’s Union born in Liverpool, England. He was a social activist and Irish labor organizer that believed in fair pay for transport workers. The formation of the ITGWU began the modern Irish labor movement and would change the way workers were treated. They forced Republicans to make changes to the labor laws in Ireland and formed an industrial union that would improve the lives of workers.
Jim Larkin was the son of Irish emigrants and was born in 1876. He grew up in Liverpool in poverty and began working as a young child. He was employed as a sailor, docker and foreman. When he started working as a dock foreman, he became interested in socialism. He joined a political group where he could further his knowledge about unions. Although he founded the ITGWU, he would have problems with rivals and enemies. He would still suffer from financial burdens until he created the “Irish Worker” a newspaper dedicated to the hard-working members of the union. The union would grow to over 15,000 members and cause major political conflicts in Ireland. Due to the political climate in Ireland, the members of Congress initiated the Labor Party which ensured rights for union workers.
Even though the IGWU was in good standing, there would be additional conflicts that followed Jim. During the 1913 lockout, there would be a standoff between the employers and workers of Dublin. The event was won by the workers and proved that Larkinism was needed in the country. Jim would move to the United States and would be deported for collaborating with German agents. He would join the Socialist Party in New York and live in Greenwich Village while he followed his political quest. He was arrested and placed in Sing Sing prison. He would soon return to his country due to his involvement with socialism. Upon his return, the ITGWU would not permit him to return as their leader. He would try to begin a union in Moscow, but it failed and he would settle into the role of correcting the housing problem in Dublin.
Unfortunately, he would fall to his death while supervising repairs on the WUI’s building. He is still considered a pioneer for union workers today in Ireland and is an important historical figure for all activists.