Category: Irish Industrial Workers

Jim Larkin and His Legacy with the General Worker’s Union

Jim Larkin might not be a household name. However, he’s one of the historical figures who shaped the lifestyle that many people are able to enjoy today. He’s more than deserving of some special attention every now and then, as people take a moment to consider just how lucky they are to live in modern times.

Jim Larkin’s legacy is tied up with Ireland and the people who live there. However, even many people familiar with him don’t know that he was actually born in Liverpool. The city, back in 1874, certainly had some of the failings of most large cities. There was rampant poverty in Liverpool. And sadly, Larkin was born right into the heart of that suffering.

The boy would grow up in the slums of Liverpool without much in the way of a formal education. For most people there would be a predictable and sad pattern to be had. It’s a rare slum that’s known for upward mobility. People born to slums usually stay there for the rest of their life. Lack of a formal education certainly pointed Larkin in that direction. Learn more about Jim Larkin: http://www.bbc.co.uk/history/british/easterrising/profiles/po08.shtml and http://www.historyireland.com/20th-century-contemporary-history/big-jim-larkin-hero-and-wrecker/

However, Jim Larkin had that certain something that keeps people moving forward. He possessed a strong sense of justice and personal responsibility. If his family was on hard times than there wasn’t anything that could stop him from doing something about it. So even as a boy he was quick to shoulder responsibilities that many adults today would find too heavy to bear. Read more: The Definite Biography of Big Jim Larkin

He worked hard in a variety of jobs and eventually became a foreman at the local docks. This ended up being far more than just a job. It also introduced him to the National Union of Dock Labourers (NUDL). By 1905 he’d be fully employed as a trade union organizer.

However, sometimes growing up on the street can give people a rough edge. The NUDL became concerned over some of Larkin’s methods and transferred him to Dublin. This turned out to be a fantastic boon even if it didn’t seem like such at the time. By 1907 Larkin had used his new location to create something very important. His new Irish Transport and General Workers’ Union was an attempt to unify all of the Irish industrial workers into a singular whole.

Larkin’s life was anything but calm. He was born a scrapper and was never one to back down from a fight. This turned out to be quite true for social movements as well. As World War I began Larkin’s anti-war efforts gained a lot of attention.

By 1920 his work in the US resulted in accusations of communist intent, and he was sent back to Ireland. This served to help him continue refining the Workers’ Union of Ireland.