For Madison, Wis, thank God! (and Moses, who organized Brickmakers Union # 1)

In 1943,  A. J. Muste, one of America's great social activists, wrote an essay on the Biblical Exodus in which he called Moses the labor organizer of "Brickmakers Union Number One." (Muste took part for half a century in nonviolent efforts to seek peace and justice (from support for textile workers in the "Bread and Roses"strike in 1919 in Lawrence, Mass., to helping organize the first great march against the  Vietnam War in 1965).
Phyllis and I quoted this passage on Moses in our newest book, Freedom Journeys: The Tale of Exodus and Wilderness Across Millennia  (just now being published by Jewish Lights).  Even before the great upheaval in Egypt and the one in Wisconsin, we were applying the lessons of the Exodus to today.  (E.g. The transformative role of women in the Exodus; understanding the ‘plagues” as eco-disasters brought about by arrogant Pharaoh.)

In honor of Moses and in joyful memory of the years we spent as students in Madison, Wisconsin, in the 1950s and 1960s;  in memory of our teachers Howard K. Beale and Merle Curti and Hans Gerth and Selig Perlman; in honor of Congressman Robert W. Kastenmeier, for whom Arthur worked as legislative assistant, 1959-1961;in honor of Rabbi Max Ticktin & Esther Ticktin of UW Hillel in those days;  and in strong support of the right of workers to organize unions as a crucial part of democracy, we vigorously support the present freedom movement in Madison and all across the State of Wisconsin.
We are delighted to join with many members of a wide variety of religious communities who have vigorously supported the public workers and students who are demonstrating.

The Interfaith Coalition for Worker Justice (ICJW) of South Central Wisconsin, 2300 South Park Street,  Suite 109 Madison, WI  53713,  608-255-0376, has taken a central role in mobilizing religious support for the workers and students. 

They are providing food, water, warmth to the protest. We encourage you to send donations, through their website, here: 

ICJW's Director is Rabbi Renee Bauer,  608-320-1144,  She writes:  Their intern is working with protesters to have a continual presence at the State Capitol, and any financial support would be greatly appreciated.  The ICWJ is also organizing clergy and congregations to speak up in favor of the protests and the right to organize.
We at The Shalom Center also applaud the members of the State Legislature who have courageously prevented passage of the Governor's attempt to smash the rights of workers –- so reminiscent of Pharaoh's response to Moses' first efforts to protect workers' rights in ancient Egypt.

Just as the midwives Shifra and Puah, Miriam and Pharaoh's Daughter  carried out nonviolent resistance to Pharaoh's tyranny, so the State Legislators of Wisconsin are carrying it out today. 

We are living through  intense  efforts by the modern Pharaohs of Big Banking, Oil, Coal, and other industries, and their governmental allies, to  radically shift power and wealth away from the middle class and workers in favor of those who are already powerful and extremely rich.

They are aiming not only to destroy unions but to shatter women's health centers (defunding Planned Parenthood), smash even mildly independent media and cultural centers (defunding NPR & PBS and the National Endowments for the Arts & Humanities), and treat Hispanics and Muslims as pariahs. 

Much of this class war against the middle class, the working class, and the poor has been justified by alleged "budget shortfalls" in the US & state budgets.

But in fact the budget deficit is caused by a trillion dollars spent on unconscionable wars against Iraq and Afghanistan, hundreds of billions in slush funds for the Military-Corporate Complez, and hundreds of billions in tax cuts for the top  super-rich of America. 

And if the  deficit were to result from money being spent on providing jobs for 15 million desperate jobless workers, it would be a valuable tool to get our economy going again for everybody – not just Wall Street (as Paul Krugman, Nobel laureate in economics and NY Times columnist, has been wailing into the heedless ears of Washington for two full years). 

Just as when Moses organized workers who had been turned into slaves in ancient Egypt, this is a religious question, a moral question, not merely political and economic. Nonviolent resistance to Pharaoh then and to Gov. Walker now is obedience to God's command: "Justice, justice, must you pursue!" 

Here is the ICJW statement:

Religious Leaders Condemn Governor Walker's
Budget Bill

A moment of contingency is upon Wisconsin
workers and citizens. Protests and rallies have accelerated this week in
Madison and across the state at remarkable rates in opposition to Gov. Scott
Walker’s budget repair bill that, for all practical purposes, would eliminate
the right of all state, local, and school district employees in Wisconsin to
form and maintain unions. 

The Interfaith Coalition for Worker Justice
of South Central Wisconsin (ICWJ) is at the center of this historic movement to
protect worker rights and assure that this bill is not signed into law. The
mission of the Interfaith Coalition for Worker Justice is to build
relationships between the faith and labor communities, to educate and mobilize
these communities in the struggle for just wages, benefits and working
conditions for all workers and to support workers’ rights to organize and
engage in collective bargaining.

In response to the profoundly unsettling, and
morally problematic, SB11 budget repair bill, ICWJ has collected dozens of
signatures from clergy and religious leaders across the state who are raising
their voice to oppose this bill. The letter, which was hand delivered to the
governor's office this afternoon, reads in part,

"Our religious traditions insist that
workers, as human beings with inherent dignity, have the right to form
associations to improve their conditions at work. Statements issued [by a wide
array of faith bodies] support the right of workers to organize and bargain
with their employers over wages, benefits, and a voice on the job"

“Governor Walker’s bill is an affront to the
human dignity of public sector workers,” said Rabbi Renée Bauer, Director of
the Interfaith Coalition for Worker Justice “As a religious leader I recognize
this as a moral crisis. Now is the time for all of us to live out our faith by
raising our voices to protect the rights of workers in Wisconsin and throughout
the country.”
##### Clergy letter follows
As people of faith, we oppose Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker’s plan to deny
collective bargaining rights for public employees.

Our religious traditions are very clear that workers, as human beings that have inherent dignity, have the right to form associations to improve their conditions at work. Statements issued by the
following Christian denominations-- Roman Catholic, African Methodist Episcopal
Zion, American Baptist, Christian Methodist Episcopal, Disciples of Christ,
Episcopal, Evangelical Lutheran Church of America, Presbyterian Church U.S.A.,
United Church of Christ, and United Methodist Church-- along with the Central
Conference of American Rabbis, Union of Reform Judaism, Council on American
Islamic Relations, Muslim American Freedom Foundation, the Unitarian
Universalist Church and others, support the right of workers to organize and
bargain with their employers over wages, benefits, and a voice on the job.

Teachers, public health workers, county/municipal employees and all people who provide vital services to our
communities are under attack, falsely blamed for budget problems caused by the unemployment crisis and the drop in state revenues as businesses have closed, fewer people pay taxes, and consumers spend less. Wholesale attacks on public servants will only worsen this situation.

Therefore we urge our legislators and Governor Walker to stop this bill and stand for genuine efforts to create jobs,
improve standards, and respect all people who work and contribute to their families and communities.

1.Rabbi Laurie Zimmerman, Congregation
Shaarei Shamayim,
2.  Rev. David Dragseth, Lake Park Lutheran Church
3. Rev. Lisa D. Schoenwetter,
4. Rev. Dr. Mark E. Yurs, Pastor, Salem United Church of Christ,
5.  Rev. Tisha Brown, Community of Hope, UCC,
 6.  Rev. Curt Anderson, Pastor First Congregational UCC,
7. Rabbi Jonathan Biatch, Temple Beth El.
8. Rev. Marilyn S. Gamm, Pastor, Dale Heights Presbyterian Church,
9.  Rev. Leah Makemson Lonsbury, Pastor, Memorial UCC,
10. Rev. Phil Haslanger, Pastor, Memorial UCC
11. Rev. Elias Kitoi  Nasari, Galilee Lutheran Church,,
12., Rev. Dr. Michael A. Schuler, First Unitarian Society of Madison,,
13., Rev. Karen Gustafson, First Unitarian Society of Madison,,
14. Rabbi Renee Bauer, Director, Interfaith Coalition for Worker Justice of
South Central Wisconsin,,
15. Rev. Dr. Jerry L. Mosser, Affiliated Minister, First Unitarian Society of
Madison,, 16. Rev. Jim Stein, Pastor, Church of the
Resurrection,, 17. Sister Barbara Pfarr, SSND, School
Sisters of Notre Dame,,
 18. Sister Mary Catherine Jarema, SSND, School Sisters of Notre Dame,

19. Rev. Gregory J. O’Meara, S.J.,,

20. Rev. Dennis Jacobsen, Pastor, Incarnation Lutheran Church,,

21. Sister Janet Gregorcich, SSND, Director, Global Partners Program, School Sisters of Notre Dame,,
 22. Reverend Amanda Stein, Pastor, Trinity United Methodist Church ,,
23. Reverend Nick Utphall, St. Stephen’s Lutheran Church,,

24.  Rev. Heide Walker Hackman, First United Church of Christ,,
 25. Rev. Deborah Dean-Ware, Pastor of Worship and Faith Formation, Lake
Edge United Church of Christ,,
 26.  Rev. Kenneth L. Pennings, Orchard Ridge United Church of Christ,,
27. Rev. Amy Becker, Church of the Resurrection (ELCA Lutheran),,
28.  Fr. Mike Berthram, St. Francis of Assisi  , BerthramM@ArchMil.Org,
 29. Fr. Art Hei , St James    ,,
 30.  Jim Zalinski OFM, Capuchin Justice Peace and Ecology  ,  Zelito@Juno.Com ,
31. Rev. Kirsten Fryer , Lutheran Church, ELCA ,,
32  Rev. Eldonna Hazen, First Congregational UCC,,
 33. Rev. Jay McDivitt; , Grace Lutheran Church (ELCA); Thiensville,,,
 34. Rev. Charles A. Wolfe, Plymouth Congregational United Church of Christ ,,
 35.  Rev. Jerry Folk, Evangelical Lutheran Church in America ,,
36. Rev.Curt Rohland   ,  Evangelical Lutheran Church in America  , ,
37. Rev. Terry Peterson  , Evangelical Lutheran Church in America  , ,
38. Rev.Jerry Schroeder  , St. Benedict the Moor Parish,,
39. Rev. Bryan N. Massingale, Associate Professor/, Marquette University,,
40.  Fr. Mike Michaeliski, Catholic Priest on the East Side of Milwaukee ,,
41. Rev. Winton Boyd, Orchard Ridge United Church of Christ,,
42. Rev. Keith Schroerlucke, First United Methodist Church,,
 43. Rev. Tammy Martens, Orchard Ridge United Church of Christ,,
 44. Sister Ruth Poochigian, O.P.  , Dominican Sister (Sinsinawa),,
45. Rev. Paula Harris, St Luke's Episcopal Church,,

46. Rev. Dean Kirst , Lakeview Lutheran Church,,
 47. Maureen McDonnell, O.P., Wisdom’s Well,,
48. Rev. Earl Zimmerman, Madison Mennonite Church,,
 49.  Rev. Paul Jackson Way, Barneveld Lutheran, ,
50.  Rev. John Mix, Madison Area Lutheran Council (Jail Chaplain) ,,
51. Rev. Msgr. Thomas F. Baxter, St. James and St. Joseph Catholic Parishes,,
 52.  Rev. Kerri Parker , McFarland United Church of Christ,,
53.  Rev. Connie Matye  , ELCA,,
54. Rev. Robert Schoenknecht , ELCA,

55.  Rabbi Bonnie Margulis, WI-Religious Coalition for Reproductive CHoice,
56.  Rabbi David Brusin, Congregation Shir Hadash, Milwaukee, WI

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