Americans back unions and public employees on bargaining rights

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There’s not a lot of love out there for efforts to strip public employees of their collective bargaining rights. While Republican governors like Wisconsin’s Scott Walker and Ohio’s John Kasich have tried hard to sell the idea that collective bargaining is part of their state’s budget problem, Americans aren’t buying it.

Poll after poll has shown this.

A New York Times/CBS News poll taken in late February found that Americans oppose weakening the bargaining rights of public employee unions by nearly two to one: 60 percent to 33 percent. Those surveyed also said they opposed, 56 percent to 37 percent, cutting the pay or benefits of public employees to reduce deficits.

Given a list of options to reduce the deficit, 40 percent said they would increase taxes, 22 percent chose decreasing the benefits of public employees, 20 percent said they would cut financing for roads, and 3 percent said they would cut financing for education.

Meanwhile, 61 percent of the respondents to a USA Today/Gallup Poll said they would oppose a law in their state similar to the one proposed by Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, compared with 33 percent who would support such a law.

A third poll, this one by right-wing favorite Dick Morris, shows that Wisconsinites believe their governor is wrong when it comes to collective bargaining. Morris’ poll of likely Wisconsin voters found that they opposed limiting collective bargaining to wage and benefit issues by a margin of 54 percent to 41 percent.

Support for the rights of teachers, nurses, firefighters, police officers and other public employees in Wisconsin and other states has come from all corners, including faith leaders, civil rights organizations, and student and community groups. President Obama and U.S. Secretary of Labor Hilda Solis have also chimed in.

Speaking at the National Governors Association meeting in Washington, D.C., on Feb. 28, Obama said, “It does no one any good when public employees are denigrated or vilified, or their rights are infringed upon.” As states make decisions about their budgets, “everyone should be at the table, and the concept of shared sacrifice should prevail,” the president stressed.

Public employees “have made and will continue to make sacrifices to help close budget gaps,” Solis pointed out. “But some state leaders have gone too far in the process. Budget sacrifices are one thing; demanding that workers give up their rights as union members—to take away their voice—is another.” [Roger Glass, New York Times]

March 2, 2011