Big Jim’s Dream

The father of fair labor terms, Big Jim, was once viewed as a villain and even spent some of his years incarcerated as a criminal. Other than serving a prison term, the iconic and legendary trade unionist spent a big part of his life in poverty, desperation, denial, bitterness and lack just because of his well-wishing demands for laborers.

Yet, ironically, before his death, on the line of duty, the heroic activist had been partially absolved by history. The world had mellowed towards him, his dream for fair work terms in Ireland had begun manifesting, and even his ex-wife had sent her warm regards to him before her demise.

James Larkin was born in Irish slums and had to work as a boy to help his parents meet the family needs. The boy lacked the opportunity to acquire formal education, but his early years in the manual and the casual laboring industry allowed him to understand how the labor systems worked in his home country. He was aggrieved that Irish laborers and English commoners were subjected to subjugation via working conditions that were very oppressive and exploitative.

Fortunately for him, he rose quickly to the rank of foreman. Unfortunately for him, he was the most committed trade unionist at the moment he joined the National Union of Dock Laborers (NUDL), a union that featured many self-proclaimed laborer champions. Learn more about Jim Larkin: http://www.bbc.co.uk/history/british/easterrising/profiles/po08.shtml and http://www.historyireland.com/20th-century-contemporary-history/big-jim-larkin-hero-and-wrecker/

The National Union of Dock Laborers (NUDL) transferred James Larkin to Dublin after its leadership claimed that he was too militant in the way he championed for laborer rights. In Dublin, the socialist felt that the NUDL was not ample in spirit and in motivation to push England and its employers to accord laborers:

Arbitration courts where labor disputes could be resolved fairly

  • Eight hours of work for a day’s pay and paid overtime
  • Employment opportunities for all willing and able workers
  • Pensions for laborers at 60 years of age
  • Adult suffrage
  • Nationalization of railways and canals

Through that determination, Big Jim, as modern-day trade unionists fondly refer to him, founded the Irish Transport and General Workers’ Union (ITGWU). The union vigilantly and abrasively championed for all of the goals that he had for laborers comprehensively. Read more: The Definite Biography of Big Jim Larkin

His tide and fortune changed; however, as was his public image, after he successfully secured the right to fair employment for local workers. He did so by leading over 100,000 workers into an industrial strike that lasted over seven months.

Other unionists usurped him and he had to travel to the United States to further his cause. At the United States, he championed the labor and socialist agenda to an extent of attracting retribution from the government, which convicted him, defaced him, imprisoned him, and later deported him to the hostile parts of Britain.

His wife rejected him during his trial and conviction. She even refused to support efforts by admirers to campaign for his release.

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