The Role of James Larkin in Birth of Trade Unions

James Larkin was born on January 21, 1876, in England. He is credited with the foundation of the Irish Transport as well as General Workers Union, that later became one of the biggest unions in the region. Before his appointment to foremanship, Mr. Larkin performed various manual jobs.

However, as a socialist, he was determined to ensure that employees were treated equally and provided with fair working conditions. To ensure the realization of these goals, he joined the National Union of Dock Laborer’s (NUDL), by 1905, he had transformed to become a full-time trade unionist.

The NUDL did not like his style and approach to issues; they, therefore, moved him to Dublin. While in Dublin, he founded his trade union, the Irish Transport and General Workers Union (ITGWU).

The primary objective of Larkin was to ensure that all employees whether educated or not belonged to a trade union. He believed that a union was the only bargaining power to a fair and comfortable working environment. With time, Larkin started becoming insecure; he started being jealous and petty especially when he sensed a rival.

In 1908, James Larkin set a political program for his trade union. The program spelled out that an employee should only work legally for 8 hours in a day, a creation of employment for the unemployed and pension for all employees above the age of 60 years.

The program also provided for compulsory adult suffrage, arbitration in a court of law, nationalization of railways, canals and all other means of transport. The reforms he said were intended to ensure that the Ireland was beneficial to all people of Ireland.

By 1912, James Larkin joined hands with James Connolly to form the Irish Labor Party. Through this party, Larkin and Connolly conducted a series of successful strikes. The most significant of all strikes was the Dublin lockout. During this lockout, Larkin managed to marshal over one hundred thousand employees to boycott work. In the end, the employees were able to earn fair employment and remuneration terms.

Larkin was an intelligent man. He urged his employees to boycott certain goods or go on sympathetic strikes. He exercised restraint towards violence. He knew that he could not be able to form a successful trade union by wrecking the companies where his members were employed.

Despite the opposition from the Irish press then, Larkin was able to command a huge following. When world war one broke out, Larkin urged his members to desist from violent engagements. He requested them to remain at home and fight for Ireland and no other land.

In 1914, Larkin went to the United States to give a lecture and to raise enough funds to fight the Britons. While in America, he became a member of the Socialist party. When his friend, James Connolly died in 1918, Larkin formed a Socialist Club in his honor. The club was located in New York.

Later in the years, Larkin was deported back home to Ireland. He had been convicted of a criminal case in the United States. Larkin had been accused of engaging in communism and criminal anarchy. The charges were later dropped in 1923.