Kirkland's Poland visit will break with the past
Lane Kirkland, president of AFL-CIO, will break years of US Labor tradition in late September by attending the first national convention of the new Polish labor confederation, Solidarity.
Mr. Kirkland will be accompanied on the officials visit by Martin J. Ward, president of the plumbers union, an AFL-CIO vice-president for international affairs, and by Irving Brown, the federation's European representative. The delegation plans to be in Poland Sept. 26 to Sept. 29.
This signals a change in AFL-CIO policy of the past quarter-century. The former head of the union, staunchly anti-communist George Meany, frowned on such direct relations with labor organizations in Russian satellite nations. AFL-CIO recognizes Solidarity as a free trade union.
BEsides contributing more than $250,000 from US unions, AFL-CIO has also filled specific requests from Solidarity for a printing press and similar equipment.
Although its contributions have been condemned by the Soviet Union, AFL-CIO has denied its funds are being used to bring down the Polish government. AFL-CIO said the money contributed was to be used for the necessary expenses of setting up a functioning free labor movement through a national coordinating committee headed by Lech Walesa, Solidarity president.
Communist bloc countries are watching closely, and perhaps uneasily, the visits of US and European labor leaders as a possible opening wedge for more Western influence among Communist workers.