Folk hero Jim Larkin is considered the father of the Irish Labor Movement. Larkin, who was an avowed socialist, spearheaded a number of positive changes that ensured Irish workers would have better pay and better working conditions.
Larkin was born in Liverpool, England in 1876. He grew up in a slum and worked a number of odd jobs to help support his family. After witnessing first hand the working conditions of laborers, Larkin became determined to do his part to make things better.
After becoming a dock foreman, Larkin became a full time union organizer. By 1907, Larkin had founded the Irish Transport and General Worker’s Union in Belfast. After joining the National Union of Dock Laborers (NUDL), he went to Scotland to help organize workers in Glasgow and Preston. He was also against Chinese immigration, believing it would be detrimental to workers. Read more: Jim Larkin | Biography and Jim Larkin | Wikipedia
Larkin continued to organize workers until his expulsion from the NUDL.
One of his most successes was the 1913 Lockout. This industrial dispute centered around workers rights. Workers were faced with low wages, poor working conditions and the inability to form unions.
The lockout lasted for about eight months without much being achieved. Many workers gave in due to starvation and were forced to sign employee agreements; those who didn’t ended up enlisting in the military. Many employers were put out of business and had to seek bankruptcy protection.
Larkin continued to help with organizing worker unions in both America and Ireland until he died in 1947.