As Solidarity's posters have been stripped from the walls of Poland, the name of the Polish labor union has sprouted on buttons and banners in Washington.
Yesterday morning a 24-foot banner bearing the Polish name of the union, Solidarnosc, was hung outside the headquarters building of the International Union of Electrical Workers, directly across 16th Street NW from the Russian Embassy.
About 20,000 red-and-white buttons with Solidarnosc and a small Polish flag have been distributed by Frontlash, a political organizing off-shoot of the AFL-CIO. Jessica Smith, director of the group, said another 25,000 buttons are on order for delivery in early January.
Smith said Frontlash also has distributed 6,000 T-shirts and 2,500 bumper stickers -- all with the red and white Solidarity logo.
"Ever since the crackdown began in Poland, the demand has just been overwhelming," Smith said. "I get the feeling that the people out there want something that shows they support the Polish people. It's sort of like the yellow ribbons when the American hostages were held in Iran. Now a whole nation is held hostage, and people want something to demonstrate their support."
The buttons and bumper stickers sell for $1 apiece, Smith said, with the T-shirts going for $5. All the profits, she said, are turned over to the Polish Workers Aid Fund, set up by the AFL-CIO in late 1980 to help Solidarity.
Tom Kahn, director of the fund and an assistant to AFL-CIO president Lane Kirkland, said more than $250,000 was raised before Polish communist authorities imposed martial law Dec. 13, including about $15,000 from the sale of Solidarity buttons, bumper stickers, and T-shirts.
Kahn said virtually all the money was used to send printing equipment, paper, typewriters and office supplies to Solidarity offices in Poland, items that the Polish government wouldn't allow the union to obtain.
"Now we're holding onto the money because the people from Solidarity we were dealing with are in jail or murdered," Kahn said. "We're in the process of sorting all this out and seeing what we can do."
Kahn said the AFL-CIO also is producing large Solidarity flags that will be flown from union headquarters around the country. The Greater Washington Central Labor Council is producing Solidarity banners.
Lynne Parmele, a sales clerk at Kitchen Bazaar in Northwest Washington, said she wore a Solidarity button "to make people realize that I care about what's going on.
"In this country people take it for granted that freedom exists," Parmele said. "But in Poland they don't have that anymore. I don't know how much impact it will have. But we have to show the Poles that we support them, that they're not alone."