Involvement with trade unions
Jack Lawson's family were active trade and committed trade unionists, with older members involved in the Durham miners' strike of 1892. This did not fail to influence Lawson, and as he grew older he became involved with trade unions himself. In 1905 Lawson was elected as assistant checkweighman by his fellow hewers. A checkweighman was elected by miners to check the amount of coal mined, which in turn affected the amount miners were paid. This was a significant and notable role, and one which made him a likely candidate for Ruskin College, the trade union college at Oxford. In 1906 he was awarded a scholarship there. During his time at the college, he would return to teach boys at the colliery, and on completing his studies Lawson would return to his work as a miner.
Early involvement with the Independent Labour Party
In 1904 Jack Lawson joined the Independent Labour Party. By 1905 he was an active speaker, and frequently spoke about socialism to groups of miners, who had traditionally voted for the Liberal Party. After his return to county Durham, he acted as agent for the socialist Pete Curran at Jarrow in the general election of January 1910. In 1913 he was elected to Durham county council, on which he sat for the next ten years. Following war service, in 1918 Lawson ran for election as Labour candidate in Seaham Harbour. Unfortunately on this occasion he would lose the election to the sitting Liberal candidate.