Wisconsin bishops praised for statement on worker rights

WASHINGTON (CNS) — The chairman of the U.S. bishops’ Committee on Domestic Justice and Human Development gave his support Feb. 24 to views on the rights of workers caught in the midst of Wisconsin’s budget battle earlier articulated by Milwaukee Archbishop Jerome E. Listecki on behalf of the state’s bishops.

“I write to express support for and solidarity with your clear statement,” said Bishop Stephen E. Blaire of Stockton, Calif., the committee chairman, in a letter to Archbishop Listecki. “You and our brother bishops in Wisconsin are offering a timely reminder of what the church teaches on the rights and duties of workers, including the right to form and belong to unions and other associations, and the obligation to address difficult problems with respect for the rights and needs of all,” Bishop Blaire said.

The Catholic Labor Network released a letter it sent to Wisconsin lawmakers echoing the same viewpoint. And in a column for his diocesan newspaper, Bishop Robert C. Morlino of Madison, Wis., called for civility in the debate, urging common ground be reached on what is fair for both sides.

Large daily protests have inundated Madison, Wisconsin’s capital city, and its government and legislative offices since a budget-balancing proposal was issued earlier in February by new Gov. Scott Walker. The bill would force state employees to pay half of their pension costs and 12.6 percent of their health care coverage, moves that Walker expects will save the state $30 million in the short term and up to $200 million over the next two years.

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