Jim Larkin; the figure behind the modern labor unions in Ireland

The modern labor movement came to life in the 1900s when Jim Larkin founded ITGWU. At this time, less than 10 percent of workers in Ireland belonged to a labor union. The movements that were there at the time fought for political causes and neglected the ailing workforce.

The few labor unions that existed at the time were British-based and never fought for Ireland’s workforce. As a result, activists in Dublin felt left out by the British based unions and decided to form their own workers’ unions.

They formed the National Union of Dock Laborers with the main aim of fighting for equal rights and fair treatment of the workers by the employees. Jim Larkin was an official at the NUDL, and he actively advocated for the labor union to be international. In 1906, the labor union successfully organized workers strike and the penetrated into Ireland the following year.

Upon their arrival in Belfast, the union organized another strike that would see their members receive better treatment and better pay from their employees. The strike was going on well until NUDL officials decided to go behind Jim’s back to sign a deal with the business owners.

He was infuriated by this action and decided to form another labor movement where he would be the leader. He named the new labor union as Irish Transport & General Workers Union (ITGWU).

Jim Larkin strongly identified the new movement with the Irish-Ireland Movement. He went ahead to make republicanism a force in the union. Jim was determined to make ITGWU an industrial Unionism where he could accommodate all workers from different sectors.

In mid 1911, Jim Larkin’s leadership at ITGWU faced a lot of challenges. Initially, he found it hard to trust to trust other union officials especially after he was betrayed by other officials at NUDL. Some of the officials found it difficult to work with him and therefore faced some resistance from the officials of the movement.

At this time, Jim Larkin needed money to fund the operations of the ITGWU, but it wasn’t forthcoming. Rather than engaging in expensive strikes, Jim decided to use another route to achieve his mission. He established the ITGWU headquarters at Liberty Hall that was a social center and a cultural powerhouse. He then founded the crusading paper dubbed the Irish worker that he would use to spread his message to the world.

The Irish Worker was a phenomenal success, and it showcased Jim Larkin’s skills as a talented editor. In the same year, there was the ‘Great labor Unrest’ that originated from Britain and spread to Ireland.

ITGWU was engulfed in the conflict, and Jim Larkin swung into action. ITGWU membership grew from about five thousand to fifteen thousand in just a few weeks. ITGWU made significant moves that made the Congress aestablish the Labor Party.

ITGWU’s glory came to a sudden halt in the 1913 lockout. Jim Larkin wanted to expand ITGWU’s scope to include other employment sectors such as the Dublin trams. William Martin Murphy, a conservative opposed the idea and decided to fight Jim’s proposition.

A war between 404 employers and more than 20000 employees began that lasted close to one year. This brought Jim Larkin into the international limelight where he was recognized as a labor champion.

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