On Wisconsin

The Wisconsin Catholic Conference has weighed in on the revolt in Madison with the kind of statement that shows the bishops don't agree amongst themselves. It's studiously "neutral," and yet kinda sorta critical of Gov. Walker's government.
Bishop Morlino of Madison, however, has issued his own statement --also neutral, but kinda sorta critical of the unions, albeit in a way that makes an important point about the common good. Here's why the Church must be neutral:
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.
The remainder of his letter is an effort to show --without taking sides-- how a person of upright conscience might think through such a dilemma. Reasonable people can disagree, but the demonstrations in Madison tell us a lot about how infected we are by relativism:

The present situation...is one which admits of disagreement in conscience as to which alternative is most appropriate. As I indicated, 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.
He asks his people to pray carefully about their own decisions, to read the WCC letter, but also the ponder this quotation from JP II's Laborem Exercens:
Just efforts to secure the rights of workers who are united by the same profession should always take into account the limitations imposed by the general economic situation of the country. Union demands cannot be turned into a kind of group or class ‘egoism,’ although they can and should also aim at correcting — with a view to the common good of the whole of society — everything defective in the system of ownership of the means of production or in the way these are managed. Social and socioeconomic life is certainly like a system of ‘connected vessels,’ and every social activity directed towards safeguarding the rights of particular groups should adapt itself to this system.
A little more.
“In this sense, union activity undoubtedly enters the field of politics, understood as prudent concern for the common good. However, the role of unions is not to ‘play politics’ in the sense that the expression is commonly understood today. Unions do not have the character of political parties struggling for power; they should not be subjected to the decision of political parties or have too close links with them. In fact, in such a situation they easily lose contact with their specific role, which is to secure the just rights of workers within the framework of the common good of the whole of society; instead they become an instrument used for other purposes.”
In other words, the Church supports unions, but unions are meant to be instruments of the common good, not factions or instruments of a political party.

Update: Mr. W. points out something I'd not thought of before. Namely that collective bargaining makes no sense for a public sector union:
A legislature cannot bind itself to a contract at all (though we do say this, it's a metaphor).  It's a sovereign body, which means that it is paramount to every private activity. It always addresses the common good, and the common good, or what it requires, can change suddenly.  If the state is about to go bankrupt, for example, the legislature has no authority from the people to let this happen because the legislature had bound itself to abide by contracts with employees that are causing the bankruptcy.

The general phrase here is sovereign state immunity.  It means that a state (principally the lawmakers) cannot be sued by its own citizens for breaching a contract.  State executives do make contracts all the time, and once the work is done and payment given for it, it's over.  Here's an article that might help:   http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hans_v._Louisiana