The Irish Transport and General Workers’ Union (ITGWU) was inarguably the biggest labor activism organization in Europe in the early 20th century. Behind the success of this organization was a Liverpool-born labor activist by the name James Larkin.
He led ITGWU with courage and determination for seven years until it collapsed in 1914 in the wake of Dublin Lockout. In fear of being deported, he left Europe for the United States immediately the organization went down.
Jim’s Early Life
Jim was born in the year 1974 to Irish parents and started activism as young man. His parents were not well-off, and all they could afford is life in the slums of Liverpool. Due to the financial instability at his home, Jim was not privileged to acquire quality education and that basically sieved him out of the formal sector jobs.
Even with that disadvantage, he had to do something to support his family; he had to start doing any job that came his way as early as in his teenage years. Eventually, in the early 20th century, Jim landed a foreman job at the docks in Liverpool and later joined the National Union of Dock Laborers (NUDL).
The Irish Transport and General Workers’ Union
As a member of NUDL, Jim Larkin was always pushing for better remuneration and treatment of dock workers; he believed that workers deserved better than the employer was offering. Upon seeing the threat Larkin posed to them, the dock management in Liverpool made a decision to get him out of town. In 1907, Jim was transferred to Dublin.
At Dublin, Jim’s activism spirit became even more pronounced and before long, he established ITGWU. Read more: James Larkin | Biography
The organization received overwhelming reception and support from Irish workers who pledged their support. After sometime, the ITGWU metamorphosed into the Irish Labor Party that attracted a membership of more than 100,000 Irish workers.
Jim Larkin later organized for a mega strike that crippled operations in different sectors for a record eight months; no member of the Irish Labor Party was working for the entire period. At the end of it all, the workers were given improved working and remuneration terms by their respective employers.
Post World War I
Fast forward to the World War 1 of 1914 where Jim Larkin opposed and vowed to fight the British. He organized for a series of demonstrations to that effect and even sought for assistance from the United States.
One thing led to another and he was deported to his native country- Ireland. He continued with his activism until he died in 1947.