Jim Larkin was born in Liverpool in 1876 to Irish immigrants. Coming from an impoverished family, Larkin had to work at an early age. When Larkin was 14, his father died, and he became an apprentice at the company where his father worked. After two years working there, he was fired. Later, he worked at the Liverpool docks, and in 1903, became a dock foreman.
A socialist and member of the Independent Labour Party, Larkin was appalled at the conditions workers faced at the dockyard. He joined those workers in organizing a work stoppage, and was even elected to the strike committee. As a result, Larkin lost his foreman’s position, but impressed the National Union of Dock Labourers so much they named him an organizer. He was sent to Scotland in 1906, where he organized workers in Preston and Glasgow, and opposed the hiring of Chinese immigrants which he felt took jobs from U.K. workers.
In 1907, Larkin was transferred to Dublin, where he formed the Irish Transport and General Workers’ Union and the Irish Labour Party. In 1913, Larkin was one of the driving forces behind the Dublin Lockout, where 100,000 workers went on strike for eight months until they won better working conditions and wages. He was also active in Dublin during World War I, organizing significant anti-war demonstrations. He then traveled to the United States to raise money to disrupt the British war effort. After the war, Larkin was arrested and convicted of criminal anarchy and spent three years in prison before being released and sent back to Ireland, where he was welcomed as a hero by much of the populace. He formed the Irish Workers League and the Workers Union of Ireland during the 1920s. Larkin continued to advocate for workers rights until he passed away in 1947 at the age of 71. A statue of Jim Larkin was erected on O’Connell Street in Dublin, and many songs and poems have been written about his life and accomplishments.