Polish trade union cool on Romney

Tue, Jul 31, 2012, 01:00

GDANSK – Solidarity, the trade union movement that led the Polish struggle against communist rule, distanced itself yesterday from a visit to Poland by US presidential candidate Mitt Romney, saying he supported attacks on unions in his own country.

Mr Romney was in Poland on the third and final leg of a tour aimed at burnishing his foreign policy credentials and demonstrating that he would be a viable alternative to US president Barack Obama on the world stage.

Mr Romney visited the Baltic port of Gdansk, cradle of Solidarity, which toppled Poland’s communist government in the late 1980s, where he met Lech Walesa, the shipyard electrician who led the union movement during the struggle.

“Regretfully, we were informed by our friends from the American headquarters of [trade union federation] AFL-CIO, which represents more than 12 million employees, . . . that Mitt Romney supported attacks on trade unions and employees’ rights,” Solidarity said in a statement.

Solidarity was not involved in organising Mr Romney’s meeting with Mr Walesa and did not invite him to visit Poland.

Mr Romney has in the past complained about “union bosses”, whom he said had donated large sums of money to Mr Obama’s re-election campaign.

The Republican candidate is trying to avoid further missteps after gaffes during the first leg of his tour, in Britain, generated negative newspaper headlines and criticism even from some of his own supporters. He came to Poland from Israel, his second stop.

In Gdansk, Mr Romney, who has called Poland’s neighbour Russia the top “geopolitical foe” of the United States, tried to show that if elected he would be a stronger ally of Poland than Mr Obama.

The White House incumbent angered some Poles by making conciliatory moves aimed at “re-setting” strained ties with the Kremlin.

Mr Walesa ended his association with the Solidarity movement several years ago. – (Reuters)