By Maureen Fiedler
Editor's Note: This commentary was first published February 21 on the National Catholic Reporter blogsite of Maureen Fiedler. Links and images have been added.
I don’t know if Madison, Wisc. has a “Tahrir Square,” but these days it must seem that the events of Egypt over the past several weeks are being replayed there, albeit in miniature. At least 20,000 protesters have swarmed the state capitol to protest a new budget cutting measure that would cripple public employee unions.
The new Republican governor of the state, Scott Walker, has launched a full scale assault on the right to collective bargaining by public worker unions, with the promise of cuts in benefits, especially health care.
According to the New York Daily News, Walker received a substantial contribution from the infamous “Koch brothers” during his election campaign.
Meanwhile, Milwaukee’s Archbishop, Jerome Listecki, issued a statement supporting the "legitimate rights" of public employees:
The Church is well aware that difficult economic times call for hard choices and financial responsibility to further the common good. Our own dioceses and parishes have not been immune to the effects of the current economic difficulties. But hard times do not nullify the moral obligation each of us has to respect the legitimate rights of workers.
It frankly seems like a weak statement, but it’s better than nothing at all. The Catholic Church has long supported unions and the rights of workers; it is no time to abandon the long legacy of Pope Leo XIII.
Meanwhile, the Democratic members of the State Senate have left town, denying the Republicans a quorum that would permit a vote on the Governor’s proposal. Stay tuned to Wisconsin!
Tomorrow (Tuesday, February 22, 2011) at 4:00 p.m. at the Minnesota State Capitol in St. Paul, there will be a rally in solidarity with the public workers (teachers, firefighters, etc.) of Wisconsin.
For more information, click here.
Recommended Off-site Links:
Class Warfare in Wisconsin: 10 Things You Should Know – Josh Healey (February 17, 2011).
From Cairo to Madison: Hope and Solidarity Are Alive – Medea Benjamin (CommonDreams.org, February 21, 2011).
Wisconsin: The First Stop in An American Uprising? – Sarah van Gelder (Yes!, February 18, 2011).
Comparing Egypt-Iran with Wisconsin – William D. Lindsey (Bilgrimage, February 21, 2011).
Wisconsin Power Play – Paul Krugman (New York Times, February 20, 2011).
The Real Reason for Public Finance Crisis – Richard Wolff (The Guardian, February 19, 2011).