Thursday, May 12, 2011


Photos by Sue Ruggles

A record crowd was out on the streets in Milwaukee, Wisconsin on Sunday May 1, 2011 for the annual May Day Immigrant Worker’s March for Justice. It was an historical event, not so much because of the massive crowd, but because it demonstrated solidarity between immigrant workers and the labor movement. The labor movement itself has its divisions, but many with SEIU jackets and shirts marched and cheered the speech by Richard Trumka, President of the AFL-CIO. The SEIU belongs to a different federation of unions called – “Change to Win,” ever since they separated from the AFL-CIO in 2005. Members of the UE –Electrical Radio and Machine Workers, who are not affiliated with either federation, were also represented. The UE received national attention in 2009 by forcing the Bank of America to pay workers owed benefits and wages at Chicago’s “Republic Windows and Doors” when the company closed. Because of restrictive labor law many workers are not able to be part of a union, but thousands of workers marched even though they are not. Thanks to Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker for getting us together. Walker is attempting to take away most collective bargaining rights from State empolyees.

A key speech at the rally on May 1st was given by Mahlon Mitchell, President of the Professional Firefighters of Wisconsin. Mitchell stated that Scott Walker offered to exempt the firefighters from the take away of collective bargaining rights in order to split the firefighters from other state workers. The firefighters responded by denouncing Walker’s plan and marching in solidarity with labor. Catholic Social Teaching provides different reasons on the importance of getting together.

The solidarity expressed by the march was not exactly the solidarity proclaimed by the first two social encyclicals. The march solidarity is the solidarity expressed by Polish Pope John Paul II in his Encyclical Sollicitudo Rei (1987). John Paul II was beatified at the Vatican on the very day of the March –May 1,2011. Compare the two statements.

SOLIDARITY – Rerum Novarum (1891) Para. 39. “Neither capital can do without labor nor labor without capital.” Quadragesimo Anno (1931). Para 69. “…there is a social aspect… For man’s productive efforts cannot yield its fruits unless a truly social and organic body exists, unless a social and judicial order watches over the exercise of work, unless the various occupations, being independent, cooperate with and mutually complete one another, and what is still more important, unless mind, material things, and work combine and form as it were a single whole.”

“SOLIDARNOSC” - SOLIDARITY -“J.P. II Sollicitudo Rei (1987), Para. 38. Solidarity – “a firm and persevering determination to commit oneself to the common good; that is to say the good of all and each individual, because we are all really responsible for all. This determination is based on the solid conviction that what is hindering full development is the desire for profit and the thirst for power …. These attitudes and ‘structures of sin’ are only conquered…by a diametrically opposed attitude…” Archbishop Listecki commented on the occasion of the beatification of Pope John Paul II. He noted that John Paul’s confidence that the Holy Spirit dwells within the church, “… generated his (John Paul II’s) warnings to capitalism and its potential for greed and the accumulation of wealth which entices us to live apart from the responsibility we have to our brothers and sisters.” (Milwaukee Catholic Herald May 5, 2011)

The first encyclicals advanced a theory of “corporatism” which could be called fascistic. It advocates the notion of the economic system as a body or “corpus” in Latin. All the parts are to work together as directed by the head. The analogy was used by St. Paul in a letter to the Christian sect of Judaism in Corinth, Greece (1 Cor. C. 12, v. 13) . “For in one Spirit we were all baptized into one body, whether Jews or Greeks, slaves or free persons …” Pius XII in a 1943 encyclical described the Roman Catholic Church as the Mystical Body of Christ. (Mystici Corporis) War time Pontiff Pius XII reinforced the corporate model and corporate meaning of solidarity, “… the principal part of the Encyclical, Quadragesimo Anno, which contains the Church’s real program: viz., the idea of a corporate, occupational order of the entire economy.” (Address of His Holiness, Pope Pius XII, to the Italian Catholic Association of Owner-Managers, 1952.) Pius XII strongly supported Franco’s fascist government in Spain. Paul’s analogy does not work when stretched to include an economic system or a particular Christian church group especially since Paul was the "prime analogate" of dissidence.

Fascism or Corporatism does not allow for strikes. Apparently Pius XI in writing Quadragesimo Anno never envisioned the principal of “subsidiarity” in a legitimate clash with “solidarity.” Labor had the right to organize – to be a stick in the fascist bundle, but a strike – or a labor stoppage was not acceptable. “Strikes and lock-outs are forbidden; if the parties cannot settle their dispute, public authority intervenes.” Q.A. Para. 94

The 1919 American Bishop’s Pastoral on the Economy affirmed the Q.A. and R.N. position that strikes are an erroneous tactic. However by 1950, American Roman Catholic theologians took exception. Rev. John Cronin of the Catholic University of America wrote, “That workers in general have the right to strike is usually conceded.” (Catholic Social Principles, Rev. John Cronin, S.S., Ph.D. Bruce Publishing Company, Milwaukee, 1950). Paul VI in his Encyclical, Octogesima Anno, (1971) recognized workers’ right to strike with qualifications. “…the temptation can arise of profiting from a position of force to impose, particularly by strikes - the right to which as a final means of defense is certainly recognized - conditions which are too burdensome for the overall economy and for the social body …”Para.14. Paul VI’s predecessor, John XXIII, had ended the complete support of the Vatican for fascist Franco in Spain.

In its formative years neo-liberalism negated the right to strike in the U.S. During the Reagan years, the 1938 Supreme Court decision to allow replacement workers during a strike was put into effect. This policy eliminated the possible effectiveness of a strike. The Scott Walker attempt to eliminate collective bargaining is the latest effort to eliminate labor unions and establish complete economic control by capital supported by the government.

Kevin Mulvenna, MATC (Milwaukee Area Technical College)instructor, closed a video of the Madison demonstrations by noting that values are the most difficult subject to teach। For the public and the participants, the Madison demonstrations were an important lesson learned about democracy। Kevin, with tears of pride and joy, stated that he was happy that his kids were participants। Hope does not reside in the White House, but in the streets of Milwaukee and Madison.

The ultimate success of the May Day March of 2011 in Milwaukee will be difficult to determine, but for now let’s call it an experience of identity and consciousness raising.