James Larkin; the Famous Activist for Irish Casual Laborers

A century ago, Irish casual workers were neglected and worked under severe conditions. While a majority of the employees were unskilled, labors unions were for the skilled and educated workers. Casual laborers earned pennies, worked under hardship conditions, were neglected, and lacked support and help from the organizations that existed. They required someone to stand up and fight for them since the change was inevitable. The national bodies that were relevant were more into politics and overlooked the sad state of affairs facing casual workers.


James Larkin is an Irish native born and bred in the shanty neighborhoods of Liverpool. Coming from a poor background, Jim was unable to attend the formal system of education and at a young age started working in the Liverpool docks to earn a livelihood. He was first exposed to the power of mass action during the 1905 workers strike. From there, Jim decided to give his all in fighting for equal workers’ rights, improved working conditions, and socialism. He joined the National Union of Dock Laborers (NUDL) and became the voice of the organization.


Through NUDL, James Larkin had a platform where he could advocate for the well-being and rights of Irish workers. Though he faced resistance from different quarters, his powerful voice could was hard to ignore. After several years, Jim was again involved in forming the Irish Transport and General Workers Union (ITGWU). The organization grew exponentially to become the most significant and revered labor union in Ireland. Jim served as its chairman from 1907 to 1914 when he quit and moved to the United States to seek new challenges in life. Throughout his career in activism, Jim adored the doctrines of Karl Marx, a famous philosopher.


Apart from the NUDL and ITGWU, James Larkin was a member of the team that started the Irish Labor Party. The party was involved in significant protests and strikes that called for the change of the demeaning labor laws and improvement of working conditions. The famous 1913 lockout that saw more than 100,000 dockworkers go on strike was the work of James and other members of the party. The slowdown was successful as employers accepted to improve the working conditions of casual workers.