Bishop of Madison, WI writes about conflict between Governor and unions

Badger Catholic shared this with me and I bring it to your attention.

H.E. Most Rev. Robert Morlino, Bishop of the DMZ … er um… Madison, Wisconsin (we have written of this fine bishop here and many other places on this blog) will have a piece in the Catholic Herald of the Diocese of Madison.  WDTPRS has written of Bp. Morlino many times.

The emphases were in what I was sent.  My comment.

Bp Morlino to clarify bishops position on unions in tomorrow Madison Catholic Herald

Clarifying the fairness issue

This column is the bishop’s communication with the faithful of the Diocese of Madison. Any wider circulation reaches beyond the intention of the bishop.  [I checked on this.  This does not mean that the column isn’t to be discussed elsewhere.  It means that the Bishop intends by this column to address people within the Diocese of Madison, not in other dioceses of his conference.  We can certainly listen in!]


The Wisconsin Catholic Conference (WCC) has chosen a neutral stance because the present dilemma comes down to either a choice for the common good, of sacrifice on the part of all, at times that pose immense economic threats, both present and future on the one hand, and on the other hand, a choice for the rights of workers to a just compensation for services rendered, and to the upholding of contracts legally made. As Catholics, we see both of these horns of the dilemma as good, and yet the current situation calls many of us to choose between these two goods. Thus the WCC has taken a neutral stance, and this is the point of Archbishop Listecki’s recent statement, which I have echoed.


I believe that the final question boils down to: is the sacrifice which teachers and other labor union members are called to make fair?

The problem with responding to that question, of course, is that there appears to be no common ground in terms of what the word “fair” actually means among various individuals. Some believe that “a fair solution” would require sacrifice from everyone but self. The relativism of our culture and society once again does us grave harm, because the cultural response to the question of the meaning of “fair” is, “well, what’s fair for you is fair for you and what’s fair for me is fair for me,” leaving us no common ground for reasonable and civil discourse. We are left with our emotions about the word “fair.” This, then, is a moment in our state and in our nation when the terrible effects of relativism on a culture are being blatantly displayed.

The article in full will appear in tomorrows Madison Catholic Herald

The whole article should go up on the site at around midnight, I assume CST.

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  1. torch621 says:

    Seems to me that asking them to give up a few benefits during a time of budget difficulty isn’t asking all that much.

    IMO, Big Labor is more concerned about the bottom line than about actually helping anyone.

  2. Supertradmum says:

    According to Drudge Report a few days ago, the Chicago Democratic Party shipped in thousands of demonstrators. The same source stated that the majority of 8th graders in Wisconsin are reading below level. I am a teacher who would never join a union.Not too long ago, I picked up the union newspaper for the largest teacher’s union in the US. Not only was it full of Marxist jargon, but pandered to the social engineering of same-sex marriages and homosexual teaching in the classroom. The tolerance of the articles obviously does not extend to the fact the 10,000 state jobs will soon be lost if cutbacks are not made by the Wisconsin government. The entitlement generation is showing itself to be completely self-centered. Why don’t the teachers understand civic duty? And the fact that some were willing to lie and use fake doctor’s notes, which the University of Madison is looking into, as the finger for this deception is pointing to a doctor or doctors from one their hospitals, shows the contempt for truth.

    A single person making 60,000 is a good salary by any standard. Most of the demonstrators I saw in the media looked like women, so they could be making a “second income”. I know that beginning teachers do not make as much, but the rate of pay raises is in keeping with the increased amount being asked by the government to cover benefits.

    Those of us who decided to use our talents in Catholic schools, especially private ones, can be ashamed of these teachers, who make more than twice as much as most of us in the private, Catholic sector. Big Labor is leading us to anarchy. This is, indeed, the age of selfishness.

    In addition, the governor and majority GOP were voted in by the people of Wisconsin, but it seems, not the teachers, unless they assumed cuts did not mean “them”.

    I shall pray for this good Bishop.

  3. David Homoney says:

    I shall pray for the Bishop as well, though I think he is coping out a bit here. His document states “comes down to either a choice for the common good…a choice for the rights of workers to a just compensation for services rendered”. Just compensation? When the average teacher is making well over $70k a year and the average worker in general in WI is making over $20k less, what is just? This doesn’t even include benefits. I work in the private sector, I have to pay for my own 401k. I get a very small match from my company. We have good insurance for which I have to only pay for dependents. Teachers get health care for life with not expense.

    When it comes down to morality, though it really is a simple question, should well compensated government employees be allowed to take down the economic system of an entire state? Is burdening future generations moral? No taxation without representation in deed.

    As a country we are in dire straits financially, and it is FAR worse than most think. We cannot afford this gigantic largess anymore. I was disgusted by the USCCB worried about not cutting programs for the poor. Do they not see the massive debt? Do they want to take the whole ship down? Who will care for the poor when no one has any money left? Do they not understand the principle of subsidiarity? Also is it charitable when the government puts a gun to my head to take from me and give to someone else while taking a large cut for themselves? Is it not better for me to give to charity and not the government? Ugh.

  4. Fr. Basil says:

    The teachers and other unionized public workers are willing to pay more for health care and retirement.

    However, in addition, claming it will balance the budget, the governor is demanding that their collective bargaining rights be revoked or restricted.

    Is it worth pointing out that Rerum novarum, a teaching by Pope Leo XIII, says that workers have a right to unions and collective bargaining?

  5. teaguytom says:

    This whole situation needs to be examined in the light of “What did the POPES say?” First you have to look at Leo XIII’s Rerum Novarum. Catholics could form trade unions. Having said this, lets remember during “Americanism”, good old Cardinal Gibbons was involved with the Knights of Labor. The Knights were already quasi-socialist. We then look at Pope St Pius X. St Pius X was growing annoyed with the unions because they were ceasing to be Catholic and growing progressivist. The big public unions of today are not the envisioned Catholic trade unions of Leo and Pius’s day. As Supertradmom says, they espouse Marxist views. They are as powerful as the govt and can influence elections with campaign money. Catholics that still follow the old mentality of union only jobs and Democrat party forever are living in some bubble. The unions and democrats have slowly left them since the turn of the 20th century. Bishops should emphasize the Catholic understanding of trade unions that is taught by Rerum Novarum. They were to protect the workers rights. They were not to be some progressive ally of the big govt democrats that could get whatever they wish.

  6. Supertradmum says:

    Father Basil,

    If the unions had not become so greedy, and had not forgotten about the common good, I think we would all agree. However, the days of Rerum novarum are not our days. Last semester, I taught 80% minorites in my college classroom. All were getting not only their tuition paid, but their rent, food, baby sitting and phone money. I do not even own a cell phone. Two of the young men had a BMW, 2005 and a new Mustang apiece. I do not own a car, as I do not make enough as an adjunct to have a car. By the end of the first quarter, my class dwindled from 26 to 13. Half of the students left after they got their checks from the government. These students will never pay back their loans and have squandered your tax money and mine.

    To persist in giving out monies to a generation of selfish people, rather than actually protecting those who are truly poor and need jobs, is the folly of the present mind sets in Wisconsin, Washington, and elsewhere. The teachers on strike are not poor. Those of us who are the “working poor” cannot understand their greed.

    Such is the status of collective bargaining and of the welfare state. We have created a Monster, called ME. In addition, the philosophies of these unions are anti-Christian, blatantly Marxist and holding and voting en bloc for positions diametrically opposed to Catholic teaching on abortion, homosexuality, and euthanasia. The literature of the unions is public. I doubt whether one can actually be a true Catholic and belong to the teachers’ unions.

    I did not attend a conference of teachers because of the radical agenda of the speakers. By radical, I mean anti-Catholic and steeped in social engineering. I am afraid this is the status of many unions today. Downstairs on the table in the common area of my apartment are newspapers published by the Automobile Workers’ Union-you would be shocked, as even the graphics and drawings are right out of Communist 1920 propaganda. The great Saint Leo XIII may not have envisioned this nasty progress.

  7. disco says:

    The fact of the matter is Governor Walker is not seeking to solve a budget crisis but to crush the opposition party’s funding base under the guise of fiscal responsibility. If he really wanted to save the state money he would have layoffs and make other cuts as needed. That is allowed for in the union contracts.

    What it really is – defrauding a laborer of his wages – a sin crying out to heaven for vengeance.

  8. AnAmericanMother says:

    Fr. Basil,
    Supertradmum is right, this is not your grandfather’s union.
    The government has taken over in the area of occupational safety, wages and hours, child labor, and other issues which the unions used to demand of management.
    But when you apply the idea of unions to the situation in Wisconsin, you’re even further off base.
    This is a public sector union. The sort of union that Saint Franklin Delano refused to allow despite his pretty firm commitment to socialism.
    Here’s the problem: ordinarily the union serves as a negotiator between private industry and labor. Labor (the workers in the company) provides the earning/production power, industry (the management and the stockholders) provides the investment. At some point, the pay and benefits for the workers must be tied to production, because the money to pay them comes from the company. There’s a balance because ultimately the company will go broke if the union demands are too extreme (unless of course in the case of GM the government steps in. But that is another issue with its own set of problems).
    Public sector unions are quite different. There the money comes from the taxpayers, who have no direct voice in the negotiation of pay and benefits. The politicians set the pay and benefits, and lo and behold they receive political contributions from . . . the unions. So the unions give the politicians money to get elected, and the politicians give the union members (and in some cases, the union administration directly) money which they expect to get back in the form of political contributions . . . and ALL that money comes from the taxpayers, not the unions or the politicians. And NONE of this money is tied to performance!
    The essential injustice of this situation should be quite apparent.

  9. Supertradmum says:


    I do not think that those who make 60K a year qualify as people whose state cries out to heaven. Those of us non-unionized, who worked in Catholic schools for 19K or a little more, with no pensions, may have a case, if we wanted to unionized, but not the situation where those who are demonstrating are easily taken care of, both in salaries and in pensions. I lived in Madison, and I can assure you, the teachers are not suffering. The governor has said that if the union does not come to an agreement, he will have to cut back on 10,000 jobs. What would you rather have, more unemployment or less benefits? Again, one must consider the common good.

  10. Texas2Step says:

    Pope Leo XIII
    It is an injustice, a grave evil and a disturbance of the right order, for a larger and higher organisation, to arrogate to itself functions which can be performed efficiently by smaller and lower bodies.

  11. Supertradmum says:


    I agree with you and Pope St. Leo XIII. Why can’t people see that the unions are most likely more powerful than our elected officials, and Marxist to boot?

  12. disco says:

    I sympathize with you supertrad, but it’s not about saving money it’s about politics. I know that catholic school teachers can’t have a union like public school teachers can but teaching in a parochial school is a far cry from teaching in an urban public school. The compensation is going to be different.

    People are understandably angered by the political hacks who find jobs at state agencies they are unqualified for, but crackdowns like this one don’t hurt those people. They hurt the rank and file. People who chose steady employment over a large paycheck. They are not to be demonized by those who chose differently.

  13. Supertradmum says:

    This is not about me. I was using myself as an example. As a professional teacher, I do not believe teachers should unionize at all. And, I have taught in very rough urban schools. I do not feel sorry for any of these union members, who I consider as completely out of touch with reality.

  14. Stvsmith2009 says:

    Let us not forget, that the state of Wisconsin received $701 million in “stimulus funds”. Of that amount, $632 million went to shore up the healthcare and retirement funds of Wisconsin state employees. That would include the teachers of Wisconsin.

    From the Milwaukee Wisconsin Journal-Sentinel:

    “Three-fourths of 8,284 stimulus-related jobs accounted for so far were public-sector posts protected by the federal infusion into state and local government coffers, Gov. Jim Doyle’s office reported.

    That included teachers, police officers and other government workers.”

  15. Fr. Basil says:

    \\Fr. Basil,
    Supertradmum is right, this is not your grandfather’s union.\\

    Et reliqua.

    Whether it is or isn’t my grandfather’s union is beside the point.

    We cannot base a teaching on what a pope might have said in other circumstances, or what we want to think a pope dead for decades would say today.

    All we can go by is what he actually said.

  16. disco says:

    Why shouldn’t teachers unionize? Is it just sour grapes?

  17. PostCatholic says:

    A rather disgusting and low-handed–I bet even illegal–tactic of calling Gov. Walker and pretending to be a a big-name, big-time campaign donor has yielded his true intentions. He seeks primarily not to save the state of Wisconsin money, but to weaken unions and his political opposition.

    I deplore the method of gaining that information, but it does demonstrate that Governor Walker is acting somewhat disingenuously. There is no harm in opening a conversation to gain the concessions needed to ensure the state’s financial health. It would be a lot easier to support Walker if he’d taken that road first and failed to exact the necessary compromises.

    Politicians of any political inclination are uniformly expert liars. It’s well to remember that even when we are inclined to agree with their positions.

  18. Supertradmum says:


    I am sorry you do not understand the argument. Teachers are professionals, not truck drivers. I could have entered the public sector, but did not on philosophical principles. I have no regrets in choosing the private sector, which is morally superior. I am quite objective and use my example as merely that. I am sorry you do not understand that a person can stand back and be completely free. There are some of us who can do this.

  19. Bender says:

    Any right of collective bargaining by government employees does not and cannot include conditions of employment, which a private employee might otherwise have a right to.

    The conditions of employment for a government employee are the operation of the government itself. And how the government itself is operated is a fundamental right of THE PEOPLE, which supercedes any rights of agents of the government, including government employees. The people have a fundamental and inalienable right of self-governance, not governance-by-union.

    Government employees have no more right to bargain on the operations of government than do priests have a right of collective bargaining over their work conditions. Would anyone really assert that priest have a right to bargain over how the Mass is said? over their hours of employment, over when they will administer the sacraments and when they must be left alone? Do priests have a right to bargain over the content of what is taught from the pulpit? It is an absurd proposition to even state it.

    Even now, we see what this asserted right of collective bargaining by government employees consists of — shutting down the government, depriving the citizenry, including school children, of necessary services. Even now, we see that, far from being a matter of social justice, there is nothing social about it — this is entirely about the personal enrichment of the unionists — and there is no justice about it — this is about extorting power and money away from a self-governed people and into the hands of the unionists.

    This is the antithesis of social justice, it is the antithesis of caritas in veritate, it is the antithesis of any genuine teaching of Pope Leo or Pope John or Pope John Paul or Pope Benedict.

  20. bookworm says:

    I am a non-union employee of the state of Illinois. Due to the unusual nature of my job and my agency, it is highly unlikely that I will ever be unionized, and that is fine with me. In my lifetime I have worked for the Church, the State, and two private businesses (newspapers), but have never belonged to a union. I say this in the interests of full disclosure so you all know where I am coming from.
    There is a difference between working for a private entity that is answerable to no one but its owners, and working for a democratically elected government entity that is answerable to voters and taxpayers. The need for a union to counterbalance the power of management is greater in the first instance.
    I agree with those who say that unionizing public sector workers was a bad idea and probably should never have been done. But, that genie has been out of the bottle for nearly 50 years now and we can’t expect to stuff it back in overnight. I do not think it is wise or prudent to attempt, as Walker has, to undo in a few days or months an entrenched power structure that took decades to build.
    If elected officeholders had been more willing to drive harder bargains with public unions, be up front with them about what is and is not fiscally possible, and not simply give in to their demands in exchange for votes, perhaps measures like Walker’s would not be necessary.
    Also, any measure that seeks to curb the power of public unions and limit the burdens they place upon taxpayers MUST include police and firefighters as well (Walker has exempted them from his proposed measures). In many municipalities, police and fire pensions are, or threaten to become, the biggest budget busters of all.
    I suspect that in Wisconsin, BOTH sides are playing to a national audience and attempting to make names for themselves, at the expense of the good of the state. Meanwhile they pit neighbor against neighbor and citizen against citizen in a manner not seen since the Vietnam War, or even the Civil War.
    Meanwhile, on my side of the Cheddar Curtain, we have Democratic Gov. Pat Quinn, who owes his somewhat unexpected election victory to union muscle and is now bending over backwards to reward them. Quinn has proposed a budget that leaves public unions pretty much untouched, but severely cuts or even zeroes out many human service programs, Medicaid reimbursements to hospitals and nursing homes, child care programs, school funding, etc. — all this on top of a significant tax increase, and against the same entities that have been stiffed time and time again by this deadbeat state for years.
    I would not be surprised to see the next big battle over public employee benefits take place right here, only this time it will be between competing factions of Democrats scrambling for the crumbs that haven’t been devoured by our $15 billion or so deficit. If every vendor, service provider, school, hospital, nursing home, pharmacy, etc., that had ever been stiffed by the State of Illinois got together and organized a protest march on Springfield, I daresay it would dwarf the one in Madison. But, I digress.
    Instead of stirring up class warfare and turning private and public workers against one another, I’d rather public officials, workers, and others realized that ultimately, we are all in the same boat, and it is in everyone’s interest, no matter who you work for, to have a stable and fiscally sound government that lives within its means and doesn’t make promises it can’t keep.
    Our Lady of Good Hope, pray for us.

  21. shane says:

    Yes the governor is in the wrong here. The following is from A Catechism of the Social Question issued in 1921 by the National Catholic Welfare Council:

    Ch. VII.
    Q5. Are Labor unions necessary?

    A. Labor unions are necessary. They are necessary because they are the only means that the employees have of determining the conditions of their work and their livelihood. As single individuals they can do almost nothing. When united with other employees in the same trade of industry, they can choose representatives who have both the skill and the independence to obtain a better bargain from the employer than would be otherwise possible. Moreover, when the individual employee quits his job because of dissatisfaction with working conditions, his action has little or no beneficial effect. If he quits in combination with others, the employer is frequently compelled to concede better terms and conditions of work. In our industrial system the individual employee has not equal bargaining power with the individual employer.

    Q6. Have the authorities of the Church spoken in favor of labor unions?
    A. Yes. In his encyclical on the Condition of Labor, Pope Leo XIII strongly defended the right and necessity of the workers to organize, and ended the discussion with the following statement: “We may lay it down as a general and lasting law that workingmen’s associations should be so organized and governed as to furnish the best and most suitable means for attaining what is aimed at, that is to say, for helping each individual member to better his condition to the utmost in body, mind, and property.” The Archbishops and Bishops of the United States affirmed, in their Pastoral Letter of 1920, “the right of the workers to form and maintain the kind of organization that is necessary, and that will be most effectual in securing their welfare.” The four American Bishops who issued the Program of Social Reconstruction proclaimed the “right of labor to organize and to deal with employers through its chosen representatives,” and expressed the hope that “this right will never again be called into question by any considerable number of employers.”

  22. bookworm says:

    Oops, I meant to invoke Our Lady of Good Help, in reference to Wisconsin’s (and the United States’) first and only approved Marian apparition.

  23. joecct77 says:

    This is almost 40 years old:

    Once the religious, the hunted and weary
    Chasing the promise of freedom and hope
    Came to this country to build a new vision
    Far from the reaches of kingdom and pope
    Like good Christians, some would burn the witches
    Later some got slaves to gather riches

    But still from near and far to seek America
    They came by thousands to court the wild
    And she just patiently smiled and bore a child
    To be their spirit and guiding light

    And once the ties with the crown had been broken
    Westward in saddle and wagon it went
    And ’til the railroad linked ocean to ocean
    Many the lives which had come to an end
    While we bullied, stole and bought our a homeland
    We began the slaughter of the red man

    But still from near and far to seek America
    They came by thousands to court the wild
    And she just patiently smiled and bore a child
    To be their spirit and guiding light

    The blue and grey they stomped it
    They kicked it just like a dog
    And when the war over
    They stuffed it just like a hog

    And though the past has it’s share of injustice
    Kind was the spirit in many a way
    But it’s protectors and friends have been sleeping
    Now it’s a monster and will not obey

    The spirit was freedom and justice
    And it’s keepers seem generous and kind
    It’s leaders were supposed to serve the country
    But now they won’t pay it no mind
    ‘Cause the people grew fat and got lazy
    And now their vote is a meaningless joke
    They babble about law and order
    But it’s all just an echo of what they’ve been told
    Yeah, there’s a monster on the loose
    It’s got our heads into a noose
    And it just sits there watchin’

    Our cities have turned into jungles
    And corruption is stranglin’ the land
    The police force is watching the people
    And the people just can’t understand
    We don’t know how to mind our own business
    ‘Cause the whole worlds got to be just like us
    Now we are fighting a war over there
    No matter who’s the winner
    We can’t pay the cost
    ‘Cause there’s a monster on the loose
    It’s got our heads into a noose
    And it just sits there watching

    America where are you now?
    Don’t you care about your sons and daughters?
    Don’t you know we need you now
    We can’t fight alone against the monster

  24. Stephen Matthew says:

    The publis sector is not an employer and has no employees. Rather there are public servants which include those elected, those appointed through patronage, and those appointed according to merit. None are in fact employees or workers in the usual sense of the word. The comparison to members of the clergy or religious orders is far more apt than it first appears, for in fact there are a great many parallels between the clerical service within the church and that within the government, particularly when looking back in history.

    If those in public service are really supposed to be unionized, then I suppose all of the people working in the Vatican are unionized? Or in the government of the Papal States in times past? No… hum… then perhaps what is a general rule or norm is not in fact to be understood as fully universal nor absolute.

  25. Bender says:

    For that matter, should military personnel be granted the right of collective bargaining over work conditions? Should whether soldiers go into combat be a matter of a union contract? If called into service, should a Marine be able to call his union steward and file a grievance against it? Should the armed services have the collective right to strike in order to protect their “rights” as workers? Or should defense of the nation be a matter for the people’s elected representatives?

    Public servants, quite unlike private workers in industry, do in fact have representatives who can look out for their interests — they are called legislators, elected by the people.

    When public servants have the unrestricted power of collective bargaining over conditions of employment, then it is the union officials who are the de facto rulers of the government. Not the legislature, not the governor, not the Congress, not the president, rather, it is a small group of unelected individuals dictating what government will or will not do while pursuing their own private interests to the detriment of the public at large.

  26. disco says:


    What makes labor unions okay truck drivers and not okay for teachers? Why shouldn’t professionals in any field seek to bargain collectively with their employers to improve wages hours and working conditions?

  27. Katherine says:

    Pope Leo XIII
    It is an injustice, a grave evil and a disturbance of the right order, for a larger and higher organisation, to arrogate to itself functions which can be performed efficiently by smaller and lower bodies.

    Exactly. And one of the best means of thi sis trade unionism, which allows workplace disputes to be handled in the workplace rather than by a higher authority such as the government or a corporate board of directors.

    As Pope John Paul II said, unions are an indispensible part of a just society.

    And, Benedict XVI:

    “The repeated calls issued within the Church’s social doctrine, beginning withRerum Novarum, for the promotion of workers’ associations that can defend their rights must therefore be honored today even more than in the past.”

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