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Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Attitudes on Unions

The Pew Research Center reports data that might encourage public sector unions:
Public attitudes about labor unions have been largely stable since the start of the battles in Wisconsin and other states. A Pew Research poll last week found favorable opinions of unions outnumbering unfavorable opinions by a 47%-to-39% margin, essentially unchanged from a poll conducted in early February. But the battles have energized union households and liberal Democrats. Among both groups, very favorable attitudes about unions jumped sharply in the past few weeks.

Most polls have found majorities opposed to recent efforts to limit or eliminate collective bargaining rights for public employees. A late February Pew Research poll about the Wisconsin dispute found 42% siding more with the public-employee unions than with the governor (31%). Despite recent Republican criticism of public-sector unions, Pew Research's polling has found little difference in opinions about public-sector vs. private-sector unions.

Attitudes about all of the parties involved in labor disputes -- governments, labor unions and businesses -- are significantly more negative today than they were a decade ago. But half or more of the public believes that labor unions have had a positive impact on conditions for all American workers, and only a minority believes that union agreements give union workers unfair advantages. Still, the public has mixed views of the impact of unions on workplace productivity, the global competitiveness of U.S. companies and the availability of good jobs in the country.

Looking at the controversy over pay for government workers, 35 percent say the pay is "about right," while 15 percent say it is too little and 42 percent say it is too much.

To reduce state budget deficits, collective bargaining for public employees should be limited, 45 percent of American voters tell the independent Quinnipiac (KWIN-uh-pe-ack) University poll, while 42 percent oppose limits on collective bargaining. But voters say 63 - 31 percent that government workers should pay more for benefits and retirement programs.

Efforts by governors to limit collective bargaining rights are motivated by a desire to reduce government costs rather than to weaken unions, voters say 47 - 41 percent.
Quinnipiac put the collective bargaining rights dispute in context as a potential way to reduce the state budget deficit. Pew described the entire issue as a collective bargaining dispute and never mentioned the state budget deficit. When the deficit is mentioned, the governor does much better; when it’s all about limiting collective bargaining rights, the unions do better.