Lech Walesa

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From early in his career, Wałęsa was interested in workers' concerns; in 1968 he encouraged shipyard colleagues to boycott official rallies that condemned recent student strikes. He was a charismatic leader, who helped organize the illegal 1970 protests at the Gdańsk Shipyard when workers protested the government's decree raising food prices and he was considered for the position of chairman of the strike committee. The strikes' outcome, which involved the deaths of over 30 workers, galvanized Wałęsa's views on the need for change. In June 1976, Wałęsa lost his job at the Gdańsk Shipyard because of his continued involvement in illegal unions, strikes, and a campaign to commemorate the victims of the 1970 protests. Afterwards he worked as an electrician for several other companies but his activism led to him continually being laid off and he was jobless for long periods. Wałęsa and his family were under constant surveillance by the Polish secret police; his home and workplace were always bugged. Over the next few years, he was arrested several times for participating in dissident activities.