AFL-CIO says it's not time to ease sanctions against Polish regime
As the Reagan administration began taking steps Thursday to ease trade sanctions against Poland, the AFL-CIO announced its sharp opposition to the action.
The White House said the move to lift sanctions was in response to ''a very modest improvement in the human rights situation in Poland.'' Nevertheless, spokesman Larry Speakes acknowledged that ''very serious problems still remain.''
To AFL-CIO president Lane Kirkland, the problems are much too serious for any concessions to Poland at this time. The Reagan administration is ''straining to find excuses,'' he said, ''for relaxing the modest sanctions on Poland'' imposed after martial law was declared in that country on Dec. 13, 1981.
At that time, the communist military regime severely curtailed workers' rights, suppressed the growing Polish free trade union, Solidarity, and imprisoned thousands of political dissidents.
The position being taken by the AFL-CIO once more underscores today's wide range of union interests. The federation of 97 unions with 13.7 million members maintains a large, well-financed international program reaching into all parts of the world - particularly into Latin America and third-world countries in Africa and Asia.
Solidarity official Jerzy Milewski told the AFL-CIO's convention in October that ''prisons were filled and new graves appeared in Polish cemeteries'' as police and Army forces used tanks and weapons to suppress workers. Although some were released at the urging of the Pope John Paul II during his visit, Mr. Milewski said, jails remain full of political prisoners.
Solidarity activists must now function underground, he added, and are constantly harassed by the Polish government.
The union's emissary to the AFL-CIO asked for and was assured of continuing labor support from the United States.
Mr. Kirkland said relaxing sanctions now would ''demoralize those in Poland who have sacrificed so much in the fight for human rights and undermine confidence throughout the world in the steadfastness of American foreign policy.
''We are dismayed that the President, for all of his tough anticommunist rhetoric, would reward the Polish government just as it prepares for trials of leaders of Solidarity, as it continues its campaign of slander against (Solidarity leader) Lech Walesa, and as it refuses to receive an International Labor Organization commission named to conduct an inquiry into charges of violations of workers' rights,'' he said in Washington.