Jim Larkin, widely considered the most important player in Ireland’s right to unionize movement, was born in the slums of London in 1876. While he had little education and lived a poverty-stricken childhood, he managed to become an become a full-time union organizer by 1907.
Larkin joined the National Union of Dock Laborors shortly after he became a dock foreman. It was during this time he began to speak out about working conditions and low worker’s pay.
Larkin undertook his first unionizing effort in 1907 when he helped workers in Belfast, Ireland by calling for a strike in June. Although this was a massive success, Larkin’s rift with NUDL general secretary James Sexton resulted in his expulsion from the NUDL.
In 1908, Larkin successfully organized workers in other areas of Ireland. After a court convicted him of embezzlement — an unjust verdict, according to most — he was sentenced to a year in prison. He was pardoned after 3 months. Read more: Jim Larkin | Wikipedia and James Larkin | Ireland Calling
Larkin went on to form the Irish Transport and General Worker’s Union in 1908. His newspaper, The Irish Worker’s and People’s Advocate, established in 1911, featured columns about unfair worker treatment and businesses that treated their employees poorly. The paper was forced to shut down in 1915.
The Dublin Lockout is considered one of the most severe disputes in Irish history. Over 40,000 workers and 300 businesses were affected. The issue surrounded the workers’ rights to form unions.
During the escalation, striking workers faced very dire circumstances such as starvation and living in squalor. The slums, already overrun with disease and lack of proper sanitation only became worse.
During Bloody Sunday, there were numerous clashes with police, which resulted in injuries and deaths. William Martin Murphy was a businessman who staunchly opposed the unions. Learn more about Jim Larkin: http://www.bbc.co.uk/history/british/easterrising/profiles/po08.shtml and http://www.rte.ie/centuryireland/index.php/articles/jim-larkin-released-from-prison
Although he was thought to be a fair employer who paid good wages, working conditions at his establishments were poor and unsafe. Murphy refused to relent to workers or Larkin, and after a trade union response was agreed upon, he fired hundreds of workers.
After eight months, the lockout ended. While it was viewed as unsuccessful, with thousands of workers returning to work only after signing an anti-union pledge statement, it is also considered a watershed moment in Irish history.