WASHINGTON – Americans want to maintain the collective bargaining rights of public employee unions by a nearly two-to-one margin, according to a new New York Times/CBS poll.
Sixty percent said they oppose attempts in states like Wisconsin to curtail those rights, while only 33 percent said they support those efforts. Seven percent had no opinion.
The results may reflect a growing backlash against Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker (R), who has for weeks been involved in a high-profile standoff with state Democrats and union supporters over his budget plan, which would curtail union bargaining rights.
Invoking the state’s budget deficit, Walker extracted major concessions from public worker unions on pensions and benefits, but they insist the state not take away their right to collectively bargain in the future.
The collective bargaining provision would have “no immediate effect” on the budget and “wouldn’t save any money this year,” the National Journal reported.
The public appears divided on whether attempts to reduce the benefits of government workers are aimed at cutting the deficit or simply busting unions.
In the Times/CBS poll, 45 percent said it’s usually about trimming deficits; 41 percent said it’s about weakening unions. Fourteen percent weren’t sure.
When asked about options to reduce the deficit, raising taxes decidedly won (40 percent) over decreasing benefits of public-sector workers (22 percent).
A plurality of the public, however, said that unions have “too much” influence in American life and politics (37 percent). Only 19 percent said they have “too little,” and 29 percent believed that unions have the “right amount” of influence.