Reagan said Solidarity fought for “one of the most elemental human rights—the right to belong to a free trade union.” He also declared that the Solidarity workers "remind us that where free unions and collective bargaining are forbidden, freedom is lost."
Reagan loved Solidarity, but only because the union was fervently anti-communist. He found the faraway union a convenient club for bashing the "Evil Empire" run by Poland's next door neighbor.
Of course, Reagan wasn’t a big fan of unions and union rights stateside. Soon after he was sworn in, he declared what amounted to holy war on American organized labor.
He fired 13,000 striking members of PATCO, the Professional Air Traffic Controllers Organization, and busted their union, signaling employers it was open season on unions. He packed the Department of Labor, the National Labor Relations Board and the Occupational Safety and Health Administration with union haters.
Reagan was cool with employers using permanent replacement workers to break strikes. He was also fine with American corporations that shut unionized plants and shipped jobs and production to low wage countries overseas. He was for anything that was hard on unions.
Reagan was a darling of the bare-knucks, anti-union National Right To Work Committee, which boasted that when The Gipper was California’s governor, he said he “wholeheartedly” favored right to work laws. One of the oldest anti-union tools around, a right to work law enables workers to enjoy union-won wages, benefits and job security without joining the union and paying union dues.
Anyway, Solidarity was also Reagan's standby NIMBY – Not In My Backyard. In Reagan's "free enterprise" -- meaning union-free -- world, a strong union that stood up to the Soviet Union was great in Soviet-ruled Poland, but only over there.
After Reagan wiped out PATCO, he ripped the Polish government for trying to smash Solidarity. The irony wasn’t lost on an American newspaper cartoonist. I forget which one, but he drew two Polish generals standing on a balcony, scowling at protesting workers below. “Fire them! Jail their leaders!” one of them yells. “Where do you think you are, comrade, America?” the other one replies.
Like Reagan, Romney supports right to work. He even wants a national right to work law.
He's all for outsourcing, too.
Romney would turn the labor department back into the anti-labor labor department. Union despisers would again rule the roost at the NLRB and OSHA.
No doubt Romney is proud that Lech Walesa, one of the founders of Solidarity and an ex-president of Poland, seemed to endorse him. Yet Walesa has strayed far from his union roots and his politics have become ever more conservative. (Reagan was president of the Screen Actors Guild and a Democrat before his politics swerved Republican hard right.)
Walesa would have a hard time winning another term as Solidarity president. Reagan couldn't get elected SAG dog catcher.
By cozying with Romney, Walesa didn’t score any points with his old union. Neither did Romney.
Andrzej Adamczyk, head of Solidarity’s international department, issued a statement clearly distancing the union from the Walesa-Romney love fest: “NSZZ 'Solidarnosc' is in no way involved in the organization of this meeting nor had the initiative to invite Mitt Romney to Poland.
"Regretfully, 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, on behalf of the President of NSZZ ‘Solidarnosc’ Piotr Duda, our solidarity with American workers and trade unions. NSZZ 'Solidarnosc' will always support the AFL-CIO in their struggle for the right of workers to organize and bargain collectively.”
While Romney saluted Solidarity, he “conveniently omitted the role of trade unions in building the American middle class,” said Bill Londrigan, president of the Kentucky State AFL-CIO. “American workers and unions must follow the lead of Solidarnosc and turn their back on Romney and not be fooled by his carefully manicured world view where workers are merely chattel to be manipulated and exploited by venture capitalists like him and unions avoided, ignored or destroyed whenever possible.”