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August 23, 1980 – Gdansk – a name that would figure prominently in the 1980s. Polish workers at shipyards in the port city of Gdansk were on strike for the 11th day, joined by some 150,000 other workers striking for better wages and recognition of the newly formed Labor Union, Solidarity founded by electrician and activist Lech Walesa. Solidarity was a Polish non-governmental trade union, began on August 14, 1980, at the Lenin Shipyards (now Gdańsk Shipyards). In the early 1980s, it became the first independent labor union in a Soviet-bloc country. Solidarity gave rise to a broad, non-violent, anti-communist social movement that, at its height, claimed some 9.4 million members. On August 14, the shipyard workers began their strike, organized by the Free Trade Unions of the Coast (Wolne Związki Zawodowe Wybrzeża). The workers were led by Lech Wałęsa, who had been dismissed in 1976, and who arrived at the shipyard late in the morning of August 14. The strike committee demanded the rehiring of Walentynowicz and Wałęsa, as well as the according of respect to workers’ rights and other social concerns. In addition, they called for the raising of a monument to the shipyard workers who had been killed in 1970 and for the legalization of independent trade unions.The workers may have timed the strike to coincide with the nearby Intervision Song Contest, which many international journalists attended.
The Polish government enforced censorship, and official media said little about the “sporadic labor disturbances in Gdańsk”; as a further precaution, all phone connections between the coast and the rest of Poland were soon cut. Nonetheless, the government failed to contain the information: a spreading wave of samizdats, including Robotnik (The Worker), and grapevine gossip, along with Radio Free Europe broadcasts that penetrated the Iron Curtain, ensured that the ideas of the emerging Solidarity movement quickly spread.
On this day talks had broken off in Gdansk between members of the Polish government and the workers. Both sides reportedly agreed to meet again but without a top government negotiator. The talks broke off in a dispute over the government’s ban on telephone and other communications from the city of Gdansk.
In other news – unexpected and violent flooding hit parts of West Virginia and Kentucky earlier in the week and the process of digging out was starting, with damage reports said to be upwards of $9 million with over 18,000 homes damaged or destroyed.
And some tradesmen in Geneva gathered an audience to watch the building of the world’s largest Ham Sandwich – some 590 feet long, Not quite a worlds record, but it was impressive; 1400 pounds of bread, 460 pounds of Ham and 240 pounds of butter. One person in the audience complained there was no mustard.
And that’s a little of what went on, this August 23rd 1980 as reported by CBS Radio News On The Hour.