Washington D.C. July 26, 2005-On July 18, 2005, Senator Barbara Mikulski of Maryland introduced S. Res.198 on the Senate floor, a bill she sponsors along with nineteen other senators. The legislation, if jointly passed, would formally recognize the 25th anniversary of the formation of the Solidarity Trade Union, which was created under the leadership of Lech Walesa to promote human rights, democracy and the end of Soviet oppression. The legislation also recognizes the workers' strike of 1980, in which members of the Solidarity Trade Union rallied shipyard workers in Gdansk and Szczecin against communist oppression, making 21 demands for political freedom, and beginning what became known as the Solidarity movement.
The demands of the striking workers were met by the Communist government, but due to the continued threat the Solidarity movement posed to the Communist regime, the movement was censored under martial law. Solidarity continued its advocacy as an underground movement. In 1989, Solidarity was officially recognized by the Communist Government of Poland and allowed to participate in roundtable discussions. This was one of the first steps toward achieving the democratic goals of the Solidarity movement, which would be continued with Poland's 1989 elections.
The resolution pays tribute to the courage of Poles who so valiantly rallied against the communist regime and led the way for the people of other Eastern European countries to challenge Communist oppression. In addition to saluting Poland's anniversary, the resolution recognizes Poland's role as a continued friend of the United States, as a fellow member of NATO, and as a key ally in the war on terror in Iraq and Afghanistan.
The Polish American Congress, as president Virginia Sikora notes, was formed in 1945 to help "free Poland and fight against communism." The organization was approached in March 1980 to achieve just that by an envoy sent by Lech Walesa to provide humanitarian and legislative support for the fledgling Solidarity movement. According to PAC National Executive Director Les Kuczynski, the Polish American Congress Charitable Foundation distributed over $200 million worth of humanitarian and medical supplies - from infant foods and powdered milk to clothing, hoes, books and farm equipment - by the early nineties, to Solidarity sympathizers.
The bill was promptly referred to the Committee on the Judiciary. A companion bill, H. Res. 328, sponsored by Representative Elton Gallegly and 27 co-sponsors, was passed by a vote of 385 - 0 on the same day in the House of Representatives. The bill now awaits hearing in the Senate Judiciary committee, and based on the committee's approval, will then be passed on for final consideration and a vote on the Senate floor.