Although mainly known and celebrated in Ireland, Jim Larkin was born in Liverpool, England to Irish parents. So he grew up in the slums of Liverpool.
Because his family was very poor, Larkin began working as a young boy, receiving very little formal schooling. He’d go to school in the morning, then work a variety of odd jobs in the afternoon to help support his family. At fourteen, after his father died, he went to work for his father’s firm, but lost that job after two years.
He worked as a docker and sailor. When he was seventeen, he became interested in socialism, joining the Independent Labour Party. However, in 1903 he gained a promotion to dock foreman. That’s also the year he married Elizabeth Brown. Read more: Jim Larkin | Wikipedia
In 1905, Liverpool dock workers went on strike. Larkin was one of the few dock foremen to participate, even being elected to the strike committee. Therefore, he lost his job. The National Union of Dock Labourers made him an organizer and sent him to Scotland to organize there.
In January 1907, he landed in Belfast. There he had great success organizing both Protestant and Catholic Irish dock workers. Larkin moved on to Dublin, Waterford and Cork. The NUDL expelled him for disobeying orders, so he organized Irish Transport and General Workers’ Union.
The ITGWU was his greatest contribution to the union cause. Although Larkin himself dreamed of all workers belonging to one big union, most Irish workers flocked to a union founded for them, not dominated the English.
In 2012, Larkin and James Connolly co-founded the Irish Labour Party.
In 2013 Larkin the most intense labor dispute in Irish history, the Dublin Lockout. At the time, unions often won strikes because the workers of other employers would not cross picket lines. In response, employers locked out employees who cooperated with other strikes.
The lockout lasted seven months and affected tens of thousands of Dubliners. One day, Larkin gave a speech to a public meeting of workers despite an official order not to, and 300 police charged into the crowd, beating 600 people.
Eventually the Irish workers lost their outside support, and ended the dispute.
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