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American Union Pledges Support for Polish Labor Movement

May 10, 1988

WASHINGTON (AP) _ American union officials Tuesday displayed a red and white banner reading ″Break Chains on Solidarnosc, Poland’s Free Union″ on the building across the street from the Soviet Embassy.

″We are here, this sign is here, to support the Polish workers in their fight to have free trade unions,″ said William H. Bywater, president of the 200,000-member International Union of Electronic, Electrical, Salaried, Machine and Furniture Workers (IUE).

″At the same time we are sending a message to the Soviet Union about their client state - and they talk about changes, more democracy. If they are the worker state they are not treating the workers very well,″ he said. The IUE building has constantly displayed a banner, a ″Solidarnosc″ (Solidarity) flag or both since 1983.

Bywater told reporters Tuesday that the union’s support of the workers in Poland was shared throughout the U.S. labor movement. He said he will ask IUE members to send financial support to the Solidarity Endowment, a non-profit group developed to aid the outlawed Solidarity labor movement in Poland.

Peter Mroczyk, president of the endowment, said the group hoped to raise $1 million in the next year to aid the families of jailed Polish workers, send machinery, clothes, supplies and to support publications.

″We want to send a very strong signal to Solidarity and to the people of Poland, that they are not alone. They have not been forgotten,″ Mroczyk said.

The IUE action coincided with the current wave of strikes in Poland that began April 25. It has been Poland’s worst period of labor unrest since martial law was declared and Solidarity outlawed in 1981.

IUE Local 201 board member Krzysztof ″Kris″ Czarnecki of Lynn, Mass., left Poland as a child in 1965. He said his uncles had to return this week because the Polish government would not let their families leave.

″This morning they said they were going to give (the workers) a raise. But you can’t buy anything with it, there’s no food there to buy,″ he said.

″My uncle Joseph was part of the Solidarity in Gdansk but on a very limited level. Everybody’s afraid. The government is after them on every corner. If they are not after the people themselves they are their wives or whatever. They live in constant fear,″ Czarnecki said in an interview.

″Before he left, my uncle said to me, ’You can chain us, but you can’t chain our hearts,‴ he said.

Shipyard workers in Gdansk ended their strike without settlement on Tuesday, but a sixth strike was expected to begin Monday at a tractor factory on the outskirts of Warsaw.

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