James Larkin, as famously known for his quote “A fair day’s work for an honest day’s pay” was an Irish trade unionist as well as an activist. He was born to Irish parents on the 21st of January 1876 in Liverpool; England.
James Larkin did manual work and became a foreman at the Liverpool docks. He later became a socialist who fought for workers to get favorable working conditions and got involved with the National Union of Dock Labourers (NUDL) where he became a full-time trade union organizer in 1905.
Larkin ended up using militant strike methods which differed from the organization’s previous methods of striking. In 1907, NUDL sought to move James to Dublin where later he was able to find the Irish Transport and General Workers’ Union. Larkin’s main aim was for the skilled and unskilled Irish laborers to join one union which would make sure that their welfare would be looked after.
In 1908, James outlined the political programme that the organization would use. It stated that there would be the provision of work for the unemployed, pensions for workers at age 60 and a prescribed working period of eight hours a day.
Larkin teamed up with James Connolly in 1912 to form the Irish Labor Party and encouraged Irish workers to go on strike where he led. In 1913, the Dublin Lockout strike proved to be most notable when over 100,000 workers went on strike for more than seven months and as a result winning the right to fair employment.
James Larkin did not use violence in strikes since he knew that he could never gather up enough laborers to strike if he destroyed their workplace. Although the Irish press was against Larkin, he still had numerous supporters and also the support of great people such as Constance Markievicz and Patrick Pearse.
In 1914, Larkin went to U.S to raise funds to fight Britain and joined the Socialist Party of America. After James Connolly’s death, Larkin founded the James Connolly Socialist Club in 1918 in New York.
He was convicted in 1920 after allegations of communism and criminal anarchy and deported to Ireland where he continued with his work until his death in 1947.
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