Originally published February 21, 2017.
Solidarity was an independent Polish Trade Union that was founded on the 17th of September 1980, under the leadership of Lech Walęsa at the Lenin Shipyard in Gdańsk.
Solidarity was the first trade union to operate in a Warsaw Pact country that was not controlled by a communist party. Through its first year membership reached 9.5 million members. Membership peaked at 10 million members (about 1/3 of the working population) by its first congress in 1981.
Through the 1980’s Solidarity was a social movement that used civil resistance to advance workers rights and social change. The Polish government attempted to bust the union by imposing martial law and years of political repression.
Throughout these years Solidarity was supported by the Pope and the United States. The financial support provided by the US is estimated to be as much as $50 million.
Despite the best efforts of the Polish government, Solidarity would not be defeated and it was forced to negotiate with Walęsa and his union.
By the end of August 1989 Solidarity formed a coalition government. This was followed in 1990 by Lech Walęsa becoming president of Poland.
Originally published August 6, 2016.
Samuel Gompers was born in London, England in 1850. At the age of 10, he was sent to work as a cigar maker apprentice to help out his impoverished family.
In 1863 the Gompers’ immigrated to the US and settled into Manhattan’s Lower East Side. For the first year and a half in New York, Samuel assisted his dad manufacture cigars at their home.
The US issued a stamp commemorating Samuel Gompers on January 27, 1950. The image above at right courtesy of Amazon.
In 1864 Samuel Gompers joined the Cigarmakers’ Local 15 Union became active in its activities. In 1875 Gompers became president of Local 114 of the Cigarmakers’ union and introduced high dues to cover the cost of implementing out of work benefits, sick benefits and death benefits for members in good standing. In 1886 Gompers was elected as second vice-president and in 1896 first vice-president of the Cigarmakers’ International Union. He continued on as first vice-president with them until his death in 1924.
In 1881 he helped form the Federation of Organized Trades and Labor Unions, which went on to become the American Federation of Labor in 1886. Gompers was its president from its inception until his death in December of 1924, with the exception of 1895.
A cover addressed to Samuel Gompers when he was President of the AFL.