James Larkin was born in Irish slums and hard to work hard for his family as a boy, before he had a family of his own. He learnt about the need for decent labor terms in his formative years when he should have been in school acquiring formal education. The young man was skilled, talented and hardworking. Read more: Jim Larkin | Wikipedia
He quickly rose to the position of foreman, a lifetime achievement for most laborers. The Irish, as well as common English laborers, did not enjoy any decent working terms. The labor system was very oppressive and exploitation of workers was at an all-time high. Labor unions were not as strong as they should have been and trade unionists faced frequent and obvious litigation and policing. However, Big Jim, as his legend has him called by modern day trade unionists, joined the National Union of Dock Laborers (NUDL).
Big Jim probably realized that he had deep set socialist inclinations when he was at the NUDL. As a member, he turned out to be very influential among the ranks and organized very abrasive labor strikes.
Some of the officials at the NUDL passive his methods to be too militant and raised an alarm. James Larkin was sent Dublin in a bid by the Union to calm the tension that he had caused.
Big Jim’s Dream
As a full-time trade unionist, Jim desired to make Ireland an ideal place for any worker. His most popular quote was, ‘’A fair day’s work for a fair day’s pay.’’ Ireland was not his biggest obstacle in championing for some tenets on which he had resolved not to compromise. He felt that they NUDL was too timid to pursue those tenets and decided to found the Irish Transport and General Workers’ Union (ITGWU). Through the new union, which he had formed, Jim agitated for;
- Compulsory arbitration courts
- Eight hours of legal working hours for laborers with paid extra-time
- Employment opportunities for all skilled and unskilled laborers
- Pensions for laborers who turn 6o years old while on the job
- Adult suffrage for the Irish in the United Kingdom
- Nationalization of transportation channels like canals and railways
James Larkin got into a lot of trouble defending the rights of workers. His time at the helm of the ITGWU saw him organize the biggest strike of his career that involved 100,000 workers who absconded work for over seven months.
The strike won laborers the right to fair employment. However, it got him into legal and strategic problems that forced him to travel to the United States to seek funds and support against the oppressive British.
He later got deported to the heart of Britain after staying in prison for three years. His imprisonment had resulted from his socialist and trade union activities.
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