Mitt Romney and his wife Ann and son Josh (R ) visit the site where the Solidarity Movement began in Gdansk, Poland, July 30, 2012. REUTERS/Jason Reed
Mitt Romney jetted into Poland Monday, as part of a push to win Polish-American votes in Pennsylvania, Ohio, Michigan, Wisconsin and other battleground states. And how does an American presidential candidate “do” Poland? By posing for photos with Lech Walesa, the former Polish president who—like Ronald Reagan—was once a union leader.
But don’t think that the grip-and-grin session with Walesa signaled that Romney, who has run a militantly anti-union campaign (even airing television commercials that promote so-called “right-to-work” laws and assaults on public employees), is moving toward a more mainstream stance as regards the rights of labor. Walesa long ago abandoned the union movement for politics, and like Reagan he’s tended toward the right side of the political spectrum.
Needless to say, Romney did not celebrate Walesa as a militant trade unionist; nor did the presumptive Republican presidential nominee recognize the connection—as Reagan once did—between powerful independent labor organizations and global struggles for freedom and democracy.
So what do the heirs to the Polish labor activism of the 1980s say? What do the hundreds of thousands of activists who maintain the Solidarnosc (Solidarity) union as a major force in today’s Poland say?
“Solidarnosc is in no way involved in the organization of this meeting nor had the initiative to invite Mitt Romney to Poland,” the 700,000-member union announced Monday.
“Regretfully,” added Solidarnosc international department head Andrzej Adamczyk, “we have learned from our friends in the American trade union central AFL-CIO representing over 12 million workers about Mitt Romney’s support for the attacks against trade unions and labor rights. In this respect, I wish to express…our solidarity with American workers and trade unions. [Solidarity] will always support the AFL-CIO in their struggle for the right of workers to organize and bargain collectively.”