There is an old country music song by Aaron Tippin that goes, “you’ve got to stand for something or you’ll fall for anything.” There are many historical figures who are the embodiment of this principle, including one Jim Larkin of Ireland. Larkin, who was born in 1874, made his mark in Ireland as a trade unionist. Read more: Jim Larkin | Wikipedia and Jim Larkin | Biography
Larkin first came to prominence when he established the Irish Transport and General Workers Union. He became well-known for a number of things, including the nickname “Big Jim” and for his catch phrase “A fair day’s work for a fair day’s pay.”
He was working various manual labor jobs in his twenties when he first noticed the poor conditions. This caused him to have a number of epiphanies, and was a turning point in his life.
Before he established his own trade union, Jim Larkin joined the National Union of Dock Labourers in 1905. Unfortunately, the NUDL did not care for his policies and he ended up being moved to Dublin from Liverpool.
Although he might have seemed a bit radical for his day, during this time frame his expectations would actually seem kind of normal.
After being moved to Dublin, it was then that he founded the Irish Transport and General Workers Union (ITGWU) in 1908. He outlined his demands for the new union as the following: “An eight-hour work day, a work provision for all umemployed individuals, and a pension for all once they turn 60 years of age.”
Unfortunately, his activities led to a lock-out and the union had to disband. However, he did not give up fighting for the Irish worker. He formed the Irish Labour Party in 1912 and engineered even more protests and lockouts.
He ultimately would come to the United States on a lecture tour in 1914 and would stay until 1920 when he was convicted of anarchy and communism.
However, he would be pardoned three years later and deported back to Ireland. Once there, he formed another trade union. He would continue fighting for workers’ rights until his passing in 1947.
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