The U.S. Catholic bishops on Thursday (Feb. 24) threw their moral weight behind the pro-union protesters in Wisconsin, saying the rights of workers do not abate in difficult economic times.

“The debates over worker representation and collective bargaining are not simply matters of ideology or power,” said Bishop Stephen Blaire of Stockton, Calif., chairman of the U.S. bishops’ committee on domestic justice, “but involve principles of justice, participation and how workers can have a voice in the workplace and economy.”

Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker says proposed legislation to limit collective bargaining rights for public-sector employees is necessary to close a $137 million deficit in the state’s budget, a political strategy that has since spread to statehouses in Indiana and Ohio. Union supporters have responded with massive protests.

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