A recent New York Times/CBS News poll indicates a majority of people in the U.S. support the collective bargaining rights of public employee unions. Poll results also show that a majority oppose cutting pay to reduce state budget deficits. The nationwide poll surveyed 984 adults, the majority of whom did not have a union member in the household.
Collective bargaining popular among Americans
Numerous Democrats from the Wisconsin Senate recently ducked a vote that could demolish collective bargaining, and the majority of U.S. residents who participated in the New York Times/CBS News telephone poll supported collective bargaining. However, only a third of the 984 polled supported labor unions, and a quarter were opposed. The rest were undecided.
Support for public employee unions was strong. By a two-to-one margin, poll participants objected to the “extreme” deficit recovery efforts of Republican governors like Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker and Ohio Gov. John Kasich. Democrats and Independents outnumbered the slim majority of Republicans who favored the loss of some collective bargaining rights, and as a result, poll results were 56 percent against and 37 percent for public employee pay cuts.
Governors say public workers are overpaid
Governors on both sides of the political aisle have presented concerns that public employees are overpaid or have overly generous health insurance and pension plans. Yet 61 percent of phone respondents – including a simple majority of Republicans – believed pay and benefits were “about right” or “too low” for public employees. Results were divided regarding whether private sector employees, such as firefighters and teachers, should enjoy government-style benefits like early retirement and pension collection.
Collective bargaining: ‘A job that needs to be done’
Retired 67-year-old Democratic poll respondent Phil Merritt of Crossville, Tenn., told the New York Times that collective bargaining is essential for U.S. families.
“I feel they do a job that needs to be done. If you work hard, you should be able to have a home, save for retirement and send your kids to college,” Merritt said. “Most public employees have to struggle to do those things, and generally both spouses must work.”
Republican view: Toppling labor union power
Representative of those who supported the dissolution of collective bargaining rights was Republican Warren Lemma, 56, an electrical contractor from Longview, Texas. States don’t have the money to pay such benefits, he said.
“Retirement benefits shouldn’t be taken from those near retirement, but the system should be changed for workers just starting out,” Lemma said. “The only way the system will change is to do something about union control, and the only way to do that is to remove collective bargaining.”
USA TODAY/Gallup Poll showed similar results
Protecting collective bargaining rights was also on the minds of the majority of respondents to a similar USA Today/Gallup Poll. Sixty-one percent opposed an anti-collective bargaining law like the one Wisconsin is attempting to pass, while 33 percent were in favor. While two-thirds of respondents recognized budget problems in their states, they were split on how to solve those problems, whether it be through tax hikes or other government spending cuts.