Madison, Wis., Feb 19, 2011 / 05:27 am
Amid unprecedented protests in the state of Wisconsin over Republican Gov. Scott Walker's proposal to sharply limit bargaining rights for union employees, the state’s Catholic bishops underscored the “moral obligation” of protecting workers' rights and called for lawmakers to carefully evaluate the difficult situation.
John Huebscher, executive director of the Wisconsin Catholic Conference, said the recent protests – which have drawn tens of thousands to the capitol building in Madison and have spanned over four days as of Friday – are unlike anything he has ever seen.
“I've been working in or around the capitol for 40 years and I can't remember anything quite like this,” he said in a Feb. 18 interview with CNA.
Huebscher explained that the controversy began over newly sworn-in Gov. Scott Walker's proposed budget which slashes funding for health care and pensions for union workers and changes collective bargaining – a move that “drastically reduces the things workers can bargain over.”
Gov. Walker faces a deficit of $137 million in the current state budget and the prospect of a $3.6 billion debt within the next two years.
Opposition to the bill reached a boiling point last week when Democratic legislators left the capitol, refusing to participate in a vote on the legislation.
“Under our constitution, you need 20 senators in order to conduct business and the Republicans only have 19 senators,” Huebscher explained. “So the Democrats, by not being around, have prevented action on the bill.”
Although Archbishop Jerome Listecki of Milwaukee and other bishops around the state have not spoken in direct opposition to the proposed budget, they've unequivocally reiterated the importance of protecting worker's rights in light of the Church's social doctrine.