Polish Solidarity Day

Polish Solidarity Day

August 31
This marks the day in 1980 when the Polish labor union Solidarnosc (Solidarity) was formed at the Lenin Shipyards in Gdansk. Under the leadership of Lech Walesa, an electrician at the shipyard, 17,000 workers had staged a strike earlier in the year to protest rising food prices. An agreement was finally reached between the Gdansk strikers and the Polish Communist government, allowing free unions to be formed, independent of the Communist Party.
Solidarity was formally founded on September 22 and consisted of about 50 labor unions. But when the union stepped up its demands, staging a series of controlled strikes throughout 1981 to pressure the government for free elections and economic reforms, Premier Wojciech Jaruzelski was subjected to even greater pressure from the Soviet Union to put a stop to the group's activities. On December 13, 1981, martial law was declared, the fledgling union's legal status was terminated, and Walesa was put under arrest. He was released in November 1982, and martial law was lifted six months later.
After almost a decade of struggle, Solidarity was finally granted legal status on April 17, 1989, clearing the way for the downfall of the Polish Communist Party. The Polish labor union's successful struggle marked the beginning of similar changes in other Communist-bloc countries in Europe, many of whom overthrew their Communist leaders and took the first steps toward establishing more democratic forms of government. Solidarity's founding is celebrated not only in Poland but by Polish Americans in the United States, with demonstrations and programs in support of Polish workers.
CONTACTS:
Solidarnosc
ul. Waly Piastowski 24
Gdansk, 80-855 Poland
48-58-308-42-32; fax: 48-58-308-44-82
www.solidarnosc.org.pl
SOURCES:
AnnivHol-2000, p. 144
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