The controversy in the Wisconsin legislature is a heated debate between labor interests and the governor. Because of this economic climate, this is the only time a state government could introduce new bargaining rules like this. If the Wisconsin economy was doing better, there is a good possibility that this would not be happening. The Catholic Church has had a strong opinion on organized labor since Pope Leo XIII’s written response on the exploitation of workers. “Rerum Novarum” was Pope Leo XIII’s titled open letter to all bishops explaining that the Church supports collective bargaining rights.
Wisconsin, like New York and New Jersey, has a large population of Catholics. But Catholics appear relatively divided on this issue. Not all Catholics are on the same page with this protest. Some questions that might be worth asking are:
1. 1. Are American Catholics today as sympathetic to organized labor as they may have been a generation or two ago?
2. 2. Did the Catholic Church have political contributions in mind when it issued Rerum Novarum? Maybe it did, but it does not go into detail on the matter. Edict #40 reads, “The working man, too, has interests in which he should be protected by the State.” Rerum Novarum is 120 years old this year.
3. 3. Do other trade union members, such as the carpenters, electricians, and steamfitters, have sympathy for the teacher’s union efforts in Wisconsin?