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Anna Walentynowicz, 80: her firing led to formation of Solidarity trade union

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Apr 10, 2010, 1:09:03 PM4/10/10
Anna Walentynowicz, the Polish free trade union activist whose firing
sparked a series of strikes at the Gdansk Shipyard and eventually led
to the formation of the Solidarity trade union, was killed today in
the Smolensk air disaster. She was 80.

From :

Anna Proletarian

Weeks before Christmas in 1970 the government, under Gomulka's
leadership, raised the prices of food, fuel, and other basic goods,
and furthermore cancelled the Christmas bonuses for workers at the
shipyards. Strikes erupted in the port cities of Gdansk, Szczecin, and
Elblag and casualties ensued. Eventually Edward Gierek replaced
Gomulka, and after continued strikes, the price hike was finally
rescinded in 1971. However, workers had won neither the freedom of
speech nor the right to organized free trade unions. In 1978, the
Polish activists organized the Constituent Committee of Free Trade
Unions of the Baltic (KWZZ) to promote non-violent collective action.
The members in the underground organization included Lech Walesa and
Anna Walentynowicz. This is the story of Anna Walentynowicz, a seminal
figure in the history of the Poland's Solidaronsc. To know Anna's
story is to understand the story of Poland.

Throughout her life, Anna worked at the Lenin Shipyard in Gdansk, one
of the country's epicenters for labor activity. As a young woman, Anna
joined the Communist Party believing in the declaration to build a
just and equal society. As an enthusiastic Party member she was
elected to attend meetings with young organizers in Berlin. But soon
Anna uncovered corruption and witnessed the suppression of free speech
and the rights of workers to organize. Disillusioned, she quickly
became maligned by the party. As editor of Robotnik Wybrzeza,
published by KWZZ, she brazenly distributed the illegal newspaper in
person at the shipyard, often handing them directly to her bosses.
Eventually Anna was segregated from other employees at the shipyard -
as many feared she would rouse her fellow workers. Anna was fired on
August 7th 1980, only months before her retirement. Activists quickly
organized and condemned Anna's "sacking", distributing leaflets which
called for collective action. Within a week, the shipyard workers were
on strike. First on the list of demands presented by Walesa was Anna's
reappointment. An agreement was signed on August 31st, which gave
workers the right to form trade unions and that September the
Solidarity party was formed.

Sixteen months later, on December 13th, 1981, that Solidarity was made
illegal and the government declared martial law. The documentary
features interviews with Anna, filmed prior to the government's crack
down. Interspersed throughout is archival footage of historic events:
news reels of the 1956 and 1970 strikes, and the ceremonial unveiling
of a monument to the victims of the strikes outside the Lenin



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