The “Big Jim”

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Jim “Big Jim” Larkin was one of Ireland’s most notable industrial trade unionists. He established the Irish Worker and People’s Advocate newspaper in 1911 and co-founded the Irish Labour Party along with his friend and fellow trade union leader, James Connolly, in 1912.

Larkin’s ultimate aim was to unionize the entire industrial workforce in Ireland and hopefully provide its skilled and unskilled laborers with fairer wages and working conditions.

In his early life, Jim Larkin had worked at various jobs during the afternoon school hours so he could help supplement his family’s income. He was born and raised in the slums of Liverpool, England, in a working class family.

He started work at his father’s firm after he had abruptly died. Larkin only lasted there for several years and was left unemployed until taking a position as a local Liverpool docker towards the end of the 1800’s. Learn more about Jim Larkin: http://www.bbc.co.uk/history/british/easterrising/profiles/po08.shtml

He became a dock foreman and lost it a year later after joining the dockers in a dispute against their employers. His participation deeply impressed the National Union of Dock Labourers, NUDL, and they assigned him as a temporary organizer.

Jim Larkin worked as a full-time union organizer for the NUDL for many years and he helped initiate strikes in major cities in Scotland and Ireland. His strike methods were starting to become too militaristic for the NUDL and they had to let him go.

Larkin immediately moved to Dublin, Ireland and formed the Irish Transport and General Workers’ Union, ITGWU. The ITGWU gained thousands of new members had loyal branches in the Drogheda, Derry and Belfast areas in Ireland.

The ITGWU were the key players in one of the largest industrial disputes in Ireland, the 1913 Dublin Lockout. Over 20,000 workers went on non-violent strikes against 300 employers for seven consecutive months.

After the catastrophic dispute, more than 100,000 people including the families of the labor workers and employers were all deeply affected.

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