Lublin 1980 July Strikes
The term "Lublin July Strikes" is well-known to historians and other people from Lublin Region, but in other areas of Poland it is overshadowed by the notion "August Strikes at the Coast", and only few know that the events have a lot in common. Early July 1980 events. were a surprise to everyone - incluiding their paticipants. Lublin Region had so far been associated rather with relentness and peaceful approach towards the authorities, who felt quite secure in the place where the PKWN Manifesto was signed.
The 1970s were an era of growing social and economic crisis. There were insufficient goods for industry, there were breaks in energy and gas delivery, which led to stoppages. This resulted in bad quality of products and lack of some goods on the market (e.g. meat, butter, coal, shoes, furniture). In addition, there was insufficient workforce in the jobmarket - in 1979 there were 33,6 vacancies per one male looking for a job. At the beginning of July 1980 prices of some kinds of meat were raised. Strikes in Mielec and Warsaw began.
On 8 July, 1980 a strike in Świdnik Transport Equipment Factory (Wytwórnia Sprzętu Komunikacyjnego, WSK) began. It was received with disbelief, especially because the whole thing had started due to... a pork chop. A price of lunch (or, more precisely, a so-called "meat component" of lunch, at that day a pork chop) was increased by almost 80% - from 10 zloty 20 to 18 zloty 10.
The first agreement between the strikers and the auhorities with political undertones was signed in Świdnik. The political issues concerned problems such as not taking repressive action against the strikers and giving more freedom to trade unions. These demands were raised in Świdnik first. Although starting from August 1980 there were more stoppages in different places in Poland, e.g. in Tomaszów, Mielec, Ursus, in none of these places they were followed by a longer strike and a signed agreement. Such an agreement was a signal that dialogue is possible.
The strikes took place between 8 and 24 July, 1980 in 91 facilities in Lublin. Among them, the work was stopped in: authorized garage ASO „Polmozbyt" at Wojciechowska St in Lublin, encouraged by the workers' from Świdnik behaviour. on 9 July they were followed by Agricultural Machines Factory "Agromet" (Fabryka Maszyn Rolniczych „Agromet"), then Lublin Car Repair Workshops (Lubelskie Zakłady Naprawy Samochodów), Truck Factory (Fabryka Samochodów Ciężarowych) and Lublin Leather Industry Factory (Lubelskie Zakłady Przemysłu Skórzanego). Meat Processing Plant (Zakłady Mięsne), Lublin Scales Factory (Lubelska Fabryka Wag), Poultry and Egg Processing Plant (Zakłady Jajczarsko-Drobiarskie), Herbapol, Wood and Chemical Industry Production Cooperative of Invalids (Drzewno-Chemiczna Spółdzielnia Inwalidów). On 16 July, Lulbin Roundhouse (Lokomotywownia Pozaklasowa w Lublinie) joined the strike. At that time, as many as 79 facilites in Lublin Region were on strike. The protest was actively supported by staffs of: Lublin Estate Construction Company (Lubelskie Przedsiębiorstwo Budownictwa Mieszkaniowego), Lublin Industrial Construction Company (Lubelskie Przedsiębiorstwo Budownictwa Przemysłowego), Engineering Work Company (Przedsiębiorstwo Robót Inżynieryjnych), PTHW, Transbud, Thermal-Electric Power Station, Cefarm, Polfa, Power Engineering Repairs Facility (Zakład Remontowo- Energetyczny), Production Cooperative of the Blind (Spółdzielnia Pracy Niewidomych), City Transport (MPK), WPHW, Agricultural Transport Cooperative (Spółdzielnia Transportu Wiejskiego), House Factory (Fabryka Domów), Municipal Services and Waste Management Company (MPO), Gas Stations (CPN), Bus Transpor't (PKS), Fur Industry Facility (Zakłady Kuśnierskie), Toy Production Cooperative "Bjka" (Spółdzielnia Zabawkarska „Bajka"). In Kraśnik: City Transport (MPK), Bus Transport (PKS), PTHW, Rolling Bearing Factory (Fabryka Łożysk Tocznych) went on strike. In Lubartów :Glassworks (Huta Szkła), Tannery (Garbarnia) and Mechanical Production Facility (Mechaniczne Zakłady Produkcyjne). In Puławy: Works of Nitrogen Compounds (Zakłady Azotowe) and Bus Transport (PKS). In Chełm: City Transport Facility (Zakład Komunikacji Miejskiej) and Transbud, as well as: the Poniatów „Eda", Work Cooperative in Opole Lubelskie (Spółdzielnia Pracy w Opolu Lubelskim), the Biłgoraj branch of PTHW, Technical Device Production Facility (Przedsiębiorstwo Urządzeń Technicznych) in Radzyń Podl. and Kock, Textile Facilities "Delia" (Zakłady Odzieżowe „Delia") in Zamość, Gardening Industrial Complex (Kombinat Ogrodniczy) in Leonów, branches of LZNS in Chodel, Siedliszcze and Garbów and branches of Puławy Bus Transport (PKS) in Ryki and Michów.
Therefore, railway workers, public transport and communal services employees, almost all big and small industrial, construction and transport facilities took part in the general strike.
The strikers did not go out to the streets and they did not organize any protests in the city. They put out strike flags and banners and remained in their workplaces, where the staffs organized protest rallies, chose their representatives for talks with the managements, and organized disciplinary service. The July 1980 strikes were not sit-down strikes, but rotational ones. While a part of staff were remaining at workplace, others went home. The protesters demanded, along the economic conditions, a security warrant for the strikers. Their postulates concerned: wages, basic products supplies and improvement of working conditions. The Lublin Railway Division workers postulates list::
1. An increase of 1300 zloty a month in basic salaries for all employees
2. All Saturdays off
3. Family benfits equal to those obtained by the military and the police
4. Introduction of salary bonus levelling rising prices
5. Improve food supplies to the shops to the level of Silesia region
6. Transparency of awards and promotions
7. Election of a new Union Council repesenting working people's interests and defending them
8. Security warrant for all employees who organize and take part in workers rallies
9. People who represent the staff must be paticularly protected
10. General improvement of social and living conditions
11. MO and SB officers are not allowed to enter the Roundhouse
12. Staff representatives guarantee order and discipline
13. Early retirement at the age of 55 in traction teams
14. Until all these demands are satisfied, no one would return to work.
In that days, the strikers were firm and consequent, but peaceful . The workers did not strive for confrontation, but asked for talks to enable them present their demands, and fulfilling them. They wanted a dialogue and to be treated as equal partners in it. Maybe it was the reason why they were slowly obtaining their goals, and the authorities were forced to step back and change their strategy towards the strikers.
Till 20 July strikes were organized in most Lublin industrial facilities. The authorities were forced to take their position on the situation and to reveal information about the strike to general public. Especially due to the fact that the information about the Lublin strikes had already spread to opposition circles in the country and abroad. Radio auditions from Radio Free Europe, informing about the genesis and course of events during the strikes in Lublin region, have survived to this day. A contact for RFE was Jacek Kuroń. His wife and friends from the editorial staff of „Spotkania", who were staying in Paris then, typed his phone relations from Poland and passed them to journalists from western press. The press in Lublin region had the courage to mention, at the most, about "breaks at work" in facilities such as : WSK, FSC, LZNS, Agromet, at the same time informing about the preparations to the celebration of bank holiday of the 22 July. However, the authorities had to acknowledge the importance of these "breaks" and on 19 July "Sztandar Ludu" published an announcement from the Political Bureau of the Central Committeee (KC) of the Polish United Workers' Party (PZPR) concerning the situation in Lublin, a report from the Plenary Debate of Voivodship Committee (KW) of PZPR in Lublin and the famous 1st secretary of KW of PZPR and the chairman of Wojewódzka Rada Narodowa Władysław Kruk's "Appeal to the citizens of Lublin" ( „Apel do mieszkańców Lublina"). It was a fragment of the appeal to the citizens of Lublin, which was postered around the city.
Despite he information from Free Europe Radio, no Lublin newspaper used the word "strike". They did not inform about the content of the strikers' demands. The paradox of this situation was that a citizen of Lublin could find out about the strike in a facility situted on his street rather through Paris, London or Washington than from the local press.
Exactly at the same time when the strikes in Lublin were taking place, Edward Gierek arived in Chełm. The aim of his journey - in which he omitted Lublin - was a visit to a students' action „Chełm- 80". During the meeting with the student activists from SZSP (Socjalistycznego Związku Studentów Polskich, The Socialist Polish Students' Association), on 17 July the Central Committee of PZPR's 1st Secretary avised them to independently contest reality... After Gierek's leave, the 4th division of "Transbud" in Chełm went on strike.
In the meantime, the situation in Lublin was aggravating. Free Europe Radio reported about arresting opposition members, and Władysław Kruk convinced about the auhorities' "good will" towards the dissatisfied workers. Finally, the Political Bureau (BP) accepted the government's decisions concerning the realisation of the workers' postulates and appointing a committee presided by a member of BP KC PZPR's Press Bureau, the vice-president of the PRL cabinet, an MP from Lublin, Mieczysław Jagielski. „After the workers return to work, the Committee will thoroughly consider the presented postulates and then present them to the PRL government" - said the Press Bureau's Anouncement . The authorities did not comment on the strikes, and the media did not inform people neither about the negotiation process, which resulted in at least partial meeting of the demands, nor about the substance of the conflict.
The result of the Lublin July and later events at the coast (on 17 July workers from Gdańsk Shipyard presented the Board of Directors "21 Postulates") was the establishment of the Free National Trade Union "Solidarity" (Niezależny Samorządny Związek Zawodowy „Solidarność").
On 10 September 1980 an Interdepartamental Middle-Eastern Independent Trade Union Establishing Committee (Międzyzakładowy Środkowowschodni Komitet Założycielski Niezależnych Związków Zawodowych) was established in Świdnik.
In addition to social, financial and supply issues, the Lublin July resulted in important new experience and attitudes among worker activists. The workers demand to get an official statement of fulfilling their demands on paper was also an important fact. In July 1980 in Lublin region the barier of fear was overcome and the fact that it was possible to reach an agreement with the authorities without bloodshed was shown.
Dąbrowski M., Lubelski lipiec 1980, Lublin 2000.
Prepared by: Dominika Majuk
The Lublin July Trail: see where the strikes took place!
Mini-lectures: 1980- The Lublin July. Małgorzata Choma- Jusińska (IPN).