Catholic bishops back Wis. union protesters

February 24, 2011

WASHINGTON (RNS) The U.S. Catholic bishops on Thursday (Feb. 24) threw
their moral weight behind the pro-union protesters in Wisconsin, saying
the rights of workers do not abate in difficult economic times.


"The debates over worker representation and collective bargaining
are not simply matters of ideology or power," said Bishop Stephen Blaire
of Stockton, Calif., chairman of the U.S. bishops' committee on domestic
justice, "but involve principles of justice, participation and how
workers can have a voice in the workplace and economy."


Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker says proposed legislation to limit
collective bargaining rights for public-sector employees is necessary to
close a $137 million deficit in the state's budget, a political strategy
that has since spread to statehouses in Indiana and Ohio. Union
supporters have responded with massive protests.


The bishops' support for unions came in the form of a public letter
addressed to Milwaukee Archbishop Jerome Listecki, who had already said
on Feb. 17 that "hard times do not nullify the moral obligation each of
us has to respect the legitimate rights of workers."


"Your efforts to share the consistent teaching of the church in the
midst of this controversy are an example for all of us on how to apply
our moral principles to the `signs of the times,"' Blaire wrote to
Listecki.


Pope Benedict XVI and his predecessor, Pope John Paul II, were both
ardent supporters of unions and workers' associations, Blaire said in
the letter.