James Larkin is the most prominent union leader of Irish descent. He was born in 1876 in Liverpool, England and spent most of his life on social causes. He was the founder of the famous Irish Transport and General Workers’ Union.
Larkin, before he founded the Irish Transport and General Workers’ Union, organized workers in several regions of Scotland and Ireland. In Scotland, he created, for instance, unions in Preston and Glasgow. He also organized employees in Belfast.
He became more notable in the famous Dublin Lockout. This was one of the most difficult industrial disputes in Ireland’s history. Larkin fought companies so that they could provide employees with fair compensations. Larkin was also ahead of his time.
He was in favor, for example, of the nationalization of Ireland’s canals and railways. He, however, prioritized the unskilled and the poor, for they were the most vulnerable to abuse on behalf of corporations.
Larkin’s career as a union leader and social activist started at the docks. He used to work for Harrison Line as a supervisor.
Larkin, after taking part in a strike on the Liverpool docks, was recognized by the National Union of Dock Labourers. Eventually, he obtained a permanent position within the union. In 1912, Larkin, in collaboration with James Connolly, founded the Irish Labour Party.
Larkin was also the founder of The Irish Worker in 1912. This newspaper was an alternative to the conventional press. Here, Larkin expressed his genuine and new ideas and also denounced unfair employers, for instance. Many intellectuals also contributed to this newspaper.
Larkin was important all over Ireland and England. This is why he has been the subject of many literary works. The great writer William Butler Yeats was a supporter of Larkin.
Larkin, after the industrial chaos of 1913, left temporarily to the United States. In the U.S., he also spread his ideals.
He was a member of the Socialist Party of America and the Industrial Workers of the World. Larkin, for instance, did not want the United States to enter the war. When Larkin returned to Ireland in 1923, he was even more popular.