The Life of Jim Larkin

Born in Liverpool England in 1876, James Larkin was an activist who founded the Irish Transport and General Workers Union, which marked the beginning of the modern Irish labor movement. Believing in the power of unions, including for unskilled workers, Larkin coined the now popular phrase often used when arguing in support of unions “A fair day’s work for a fair day’s pay.” Learn more about Daniel Taub: and

Since Larkin had little education, he worked various jobs including as a foreman at the Liverpool Docks. This presumably is where his passion for helping workers was born, as he observed what he felt were unfair working conditions and joined the National Union of Dock Labourers (NUDL). This made his path in life clear. He soon became a trade union organizer in 1905, believing in socialism.

However, the NUDL did not approve of his strike methods and in 1907 he was moved to Dublin. There, he did what he would become well noted for, he founded his own union: the Irish Transport and General Workers Union. He outlined fair working conditions for its members including 8-hour days and pensions for those age 60 and above.

Larkin then went on to form a second union in 1912: the Irish Labor Party. It was through the strikes performed by this union that he would accomplish what he was also widely known for, the Dublin Lockout of 1913. In this series of strikes, over 100,000 unskilled workers would earn the right to fair employment after seven months of striking.

Larkin came to America soon after for a lecture tour. After his friend James Connolly passed, whom he founded the Irish Labor Party with, he decided to stay in America and founded the James Connolly Socialist Club in New York in honor of his fallen friend. However, in 1920 Larkin was convicted of criminal anarchy and treason and was deported back to Great Britain.

There he continued his mission, fighting for the rights of workers. Archbishop John Charles McQuaid regarded Larkin as his “most treasured conversion” after having performed the requiem Mass for Larkin before his passing in 1947.

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