Making Workplace Conditions Fair and Safe: James Larkin’s Legacy

James Larkin, nicknamed Big Jim, was born in Liverpool, England, on January 21, 1876. He grew up in the slums with little education available to him because his family was poor. As a youth Larkin was forced to work in order to supplement his family’s meager income. He held a wide variety of odd jobs before eventually working as a foreman at the Liverpool Docks. Read more: Jim Larkin | Wikipedia

In 1905 Larkin joined the National Union of Dock Labourers (NUDL) where he became a trade union organizer. He was in that position for two years before he was transferred to Dublin. He couldn’t believe the terrible work conditions and lack of a union to represent workers so he founded the Irish Transport and General Workers’ Union.

Larkin was not a man to settle for what he thought was wrong so he went on to found the Irish Labour Party. He organized many strikes in an effort to get working conditions improved. The biggest strike he was responsible for took 8 months and included 100,000 workers. It was named the 1913 Dublin Lockout.

When World War I commenced James Larkin traveled to the United States to stage anti-war demonstrations. He also promoted his socialist views while attempting to raise money on his pipe dream to fight the British. His efforts were not well received in fact, he was imprisoned for three years before finally being deported home to Ireland.

Larkin led a life in service to others all the way up until the day he died on January 30, 1947. He is best remembered for a phrase he lived by ‘A fair day’s work for a fair day’s pay’.

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James Larkin


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