In a Labor Day address in 1980, Ronald Reagan said:
These are the values inspiring those brave workers in Poland ... They remind us that where free unions and collective bargaining are forbidden, freedom is lost.
(Reagan starts praising unions at around 2:00, but the main quote starts a little after 7:00).
Of course, Reagan subsequently broke the back of the air traffic controllers union in America.
Senator Sherrod Brown - without mentioning Reagan - made an interesting comment last week:
History teaches us that unions are a very positive force in society that creates a middle class and that protects our freedom. So don't tell me you're against – don't tell me you support unions internationally but you don't support unions here. Don't tell me you support collective bargaining in Poland but you oppose collective bargaining in Zanesville or Dayton, Ohio, because frankly that's inconsistent and ultimately it's not taking the side of people whom we are supposed to represent.
Brown also said:
I look back at history and some of the worst governments we've ever had, do you know that one of the first things they did? They went after the trade unions. Hitler didn't want unions. Stalin didn't want unions. Mubarak didn't want independent unions. These autocrats in history don't want independent unions.
He subsequently apologized for going too far with his comments.