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Faith Group Says lawmakers should slow down on right-to-work

Written by LOPPW | 02/26/2015

Faith Group Says lawmakers should slow down on right-to-work

Wisconsin’s largest coalition of Christian churches called on lawmakers Wednesday to halt the fast-tracking of the right-to-work legislation that is expected to be approved by the Senate in an extraordinary session Wednesday.

The Wisconsin Council of Churches has not taken a position on the bill. However, it issued a statement calling on lawmakers to consider “how this legislation could impact efforts to reduce poverty, close racial disparities and build economic opportunities for working families.”

“As a potentially polarizing and certainly controversial change in our laws,” the council’s statement says, “this bill demands the most careful attention from both legislators and citizens. Whatever its merits, it needs to be weighed and considered from all angles, like any other major piece of public policy.”

The statement appears to allude to the abrupt close of testimony in the Senate Labor Committee meeting on the bill Tuesday.

Republicans had planned to end public testimony at 7 p.m., but committee Chairman Sen. Steve Nass (R-Whitewater) ended it a half-hour early out of concerns that protesters would peacefully disrupt the vote if Republicans limited public testimony.

Two other faith-based lobbying groups weighed into the fray during Tuesday’s committee hearing: the Lutheran Office for Public Policy in Wisconsin and the Wisconsin Catholic Conference.

The Rev. Cindy Crane of the Lutheran Office registered in opposition to the bill, but had not had a chance to speak before the close of the hearing. Crane said her organization does not typically lobby on union issues. But it did in this case, she said, because of the effect the bill could have on hunger and poverty — issues it does advocate on — and the speed with which the bill was moving.

“There hasn’t been enough time to really understand the impact this legislation would have on poverty in our state,” she said.

Like the Conference of Churches, the Wisconsin Catholic Conference, the lobbying arm for the state’s Catholic bishops, did not take a stand on the bill. Instead, executive director John Huebscher read a statement Tuesday reiterating Catholic teaching on the rights of workers to unionize and those of employers to earn a profit.

It called on lawmakers to ask themselves whether the measure benefits the common good, provides a “just balance” between the interests of workers and employers, and protects the “natural right of workers to assemble and form associations.”

“When the interests of both employee and employer are balanced, such that neither tries to damage the other and each cooperates for the advancement of justice and the common good, everyone prospers,” it said.

About Annysa Johnson

Annysa Johnson is an award-winning reporter covering faith and spirituality in southeastern Wisconsin.