Class warfare,  Trade Unions

Lech Walesa, class warrior

Lech Walesa, the former Polish Solidarity leader and president who was probably more responsible than any other single person for the collapse of the Communist regimes in Eastern Europe, sounded suspiciously socialist on a visit to a Chrysler auto plant in Detroit.

Walesa, 68, won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1983 after founding the Soviet bloc’s first independent trade union. The labor leader blamed business owners for unemployment in cities such as Detroit and called for creating more ownership among the working class. For instance, he said, perhaps workers should have to invest half their wages back into their companies.

He credited Chrysler’s willingness to work with union members for accelerating its turnaround. The union made sacrifices during Chrysler’s 2009 bankruptcy, but has benefited from the automaker’s revival under Fiat. On Thursday, Chrysler reported a $473-million first-quarter profit.

Jefferson North, where workers assemble the very profitable Jeep Grand Cherokee and the Dodge Durango, will add 1,100 new workers in November. Next year, it will begin making a new luxury SUV for Maserati, another Fiat-owned brand.

Walesa told the United Auto Workers local president at the plant that if Chrysler CEO Sergio Marchionne was not a good boss, “I’ll stay with you and we’ll go on strike.”

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