United Auto Workers President Douglas Fraser revealed yesterday that Western labor unions, including the UAW, have provided money to striking Polish trade unionists.
Fraser's comments came as he and other labor leaders celebrated Labor Day and the Polish workers' gains from the strike. Poland granted workers the right to form independent trade unions Saturday, a major concession for a communist bloc nation.
Speaking on "Face the Nation" (CBS, WDVM), Fraser said his union and others had provided cash for food and "all sorts of assistance." The money was sent through the International Federation of Metal Workers in Switzerland, he said.
A spokesman for the Metal Workers told Reuter news agency yesterday in Switzerland that his organization had provided about $120,000 to the Poles from U.S., British and French unions as a "Symbolic gift."
"Money was used for food and to help families who are in great need," he said.
Even as he revealed the help, Fraser expressed concern that publicity about it could serve as an "excuse" for Soviet intervention in Poland. He said U.S. unions do not "want the communist hierarchy to say this was not really a workers" revolt. So whatever we did, we did on a low-key basis." n
He declined to name the other unions providing assistance. "But let me underline once more, that the Polish workers were so determined, had so much courage, they Didn't need the help. They had their own strength and determination and commitment to freedom and free trade unions."
Labor Secretary Ray Marshall, another Labor Day guest on Sunday interview shows, appeared to support the unions' assistance to the Poles.
"The labor movement has a long tradition of assisting labor movements everywhere," he said on "Issues and Answers" (ABC, WJLA). "The principle is a good one. The promotion of free trade unions is one of the best ways to guarantee human rights for every worker everywhere."
He noted, however, that "it is good for all of us that the Poles are able to work out their problems themselves without outside intervention." He said the International Labor Organization, based in Geneva, was the Appropriate vehicle to help the Polish unions "adjust" to their new status.
Another union leader, the AFL-CIO's Lane Kirkland, appearing on "Meet the Press" (NBC, WRC), called the Polish workers's strike "an exciting and inspiring event.
"For the first time in history, a pluralistic institution has been accepted within a communist regime. I think the consequences can well be quite far-reaching.
"It was an extraordinary example of human courage and what can be accomplished by pure human courage," Kirkland said. "They established on a de facto basis a free trade union. It was not given to them. They created it and maintained it and compelled the government to recognize and accept it."
Kirkland said international labor had planned massive boycotts of Polish transport needs in the event of a major repression of the strike. He did not discuss the funneling of money.