The Independent Self-Governing Trade Union ‘Solidarity’, or Polish Solidarność, is a trade union federation established in 1980 at the Gdańsk Shipyard in Poland under the leadership of Lech Walesa. Solidarity became the first independent labour union in the Soviet bloc, achieving a membership of more than nine million people by September 1981.
Solidarity was a broad social movement using the methods of civil resistance to advance workers’ rights and effect social change. Throughout 1981 Solidarity conducted a series of controlled strikes in its appeal for economic reforms, free elections, and for the involvement of trade unions in decision-making.
In December 1981 the Polish government imposed martial law in an attempt to stamp out the Solidarity movement. Its leaders were arrested, and the union was declared illegal and formally dissolved by parliament in October 1982. However, it continued as an underground organisation.
In 1988 renewed labour unrest spread across Poland, with government recognition of Solidarity among the demands. In April 1989 the government agreed to legalise Solidarity and allow it to participate in free elections. By the end of August a Solidarity-led coalition government was formed. In
December 1990 Walesa became the first freely-elected president of Poland in 50 years.
The donor of this badge, Peter Stanley, writes:
The turmoil in Poland was a big deal in the early 1980s, and many
people felt a great admiration for Lech Walesa and Jerzy Popieluszko
and the resistance against Poland’s martial law. I didn’t wear the
badge myself, though.