Jim Larkin was a trade unionist, an activist, and a labor organizer who started the General Worker’s Unions and the Irish Transport. Otherwise known as James Larkin or Big Jim, he was the first person to use the phrase, “A fair day’s work for a fair day’s pay.” Jim was born in January, 28, 1874 in Liverpool, England, and was raised in the slums of the city.
He didn’t much in the way of formal education and worked a spread of different jobs when he was younger to help support his family. When Jim worked his way up to the foreman position at the Liverpool docks, he realized that the workers there were being treated poorly.
This started what was to be a life-long mission of Jim’s of helping workers to be treated fairly and earning a decent wage.
In 1905, Jim Larkin became a full-time trade union organizer, and in 1907 he founded the Irish Transport and General Workers’ Union after being transferred to Dublin.
In 1908, he laid out the political agenda for ITGWU, which stated that there would be pensions for all workers after they were 60 years of age and that there would be work for all unemployed people at 8 hours a day.
By 1911, Jim was working to start-up inexpensive strikes that would have an effect, and he also made Liberty Hall the ITGWU headquarters, which was to be a cultural powerhouse to promote his ideas and help workers.
Instead of being satisfied with these efforts, Jim also started-up and became the editor of the Irish Worker, which was a paper that was very successful in pushing forward the agenda of the ITGWU.
After the founding of the Irish Worker, Jim Larkin and the ITGWU became involved in “the Great Labour Unrest.” During this time the union grew to 15,000 strong, and because of the efforts of Jim and the ITGWU, the congress put together the Labour Party.
Throughout 1912 and 1913 Jim organized many different strikes and eventually lead the 1913 Dublin Lockout where 100,000 workers went on strike for many months. The result was the right to fair employment for workers.
When World War 1 began, Jim Larkin organized large protests and encouraged the Irish people to not get involved. It was Jim who encouraged the Irish to not fight in any war that had nothing to do with Ireland.
Later on in 1914 and beyond, Jim would travel to America where he would make many speeches and inspire a great many people.
Learn more about Jim Larkin: