He grew up in the slums of Liverpool, England, but rose to become one of the most celebrated names in the history of the union movement in the United Kingdom. Jim Larkin, a.k.a. “Big Jim” was born in 1876, and was already working by the age of seven in order to help out his impoverished family.
During his teenage years, he developed an interest in socialism, which would form the foundation of his later years when he became a union organizer. Read more: Jim Larkin | Biography and Jim Larkin | Wikipedia
Larkin became a foreman on the Liverpool docks, but when workers staged a strike there in 1905, he joined with them. While it cost him his foreman’s job, the National Union of Dock Labourers made him their point man to organize unions in Preston and Glasgow.
He also protested against Chinese immigration in Liverpool, claiming their presence threatened the livelihood of native dock workers.
In 1907, Larkin was sent to Belfast, where he formed not only the Irish Transport and General Workers’ Union, but the Irish Labour Party. He helped organize numerous strikes throughout Ireland, including the famed 1913 Dublin Lockout.
More than 100,000 workers struck for better working conditions and wages. The strike lasted eight months, with the workers coming out on top.
“Big Jim” Larkin came to the United States in 1914, where he joined the Socialist Party of America and later went on to voice public support for the Soviet Union. With a large number of the American population mistrustful and fearful of communists, Larkin was arrested in 1920 for criminal anarchy.
He was pardoned in 1923 and deported back to Ireland, where he helped form the Irish Worker League. He continued to work for labor and socialist causes until his death in 1947 at the age of 71.
To this day he is recognized as one of the most important figures in the history of Irish unions, and even had a statue erected in his honor in Dublin.