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 Wałęsa, 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. Wałęsa long ago abandoned the union movement for politics, and like Reagan he’s tended toward the right side of the political spectrum.
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 Solidarność (Solidarity) union as a major force in today’s Poland say?
“Solidarność 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.
AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka put the pieces together with a stinging rebuke of Romney.
“The story of the Polish resistance is one of a country gaining strength from bottom-up organizing on behalf of the whole country,” said Trumka. “I wish Romney would pause and learn the lessons of the Polish labor movement’s courageous resistance to communism rather than just treat Poland as yet another photo op. Romney needs to step back and reject the George W. Bush/Bain Capital model of top down economics and recognize that we are all stronger when we stand together.”