Tuesday, March 1, 2011

So People Don't Hate Public Workers?

I was hoping that some data would come out and test the right's fantasy of private sector members of the middle class hating public sector members of the middle class. I never thought it would be this overwhelming or conclusive:
Three national polls show scapegoating of public employees is a bust: We now have three big national polls showing that Americans back public employees in their standoffs with governors who would roll back bargaining rights -- clear evidence that the public has not been as quick to scapegoat them for our economic doldrums as many expected.

The new Pew poll asks people about the Wisconsin standoff in particular, finding that more (42 percent) side with the unions than stand with Governor Scott Walker (31 percent). Last night's New York Times/CBS poll asks the question more generally, finding strong support for the right of unions to collectively bargain, 60-33.

These come after last week's Gallup poll finding that 61 percent favor the public unions against Walker. Tellingly, all three polls show support for the unions among independents, and all three show that only higher income folks lean towards opposing them. Whatever hostility exists towards public employees, it seems fair to speculate that proposals to roll back long-accepted fundamental rights represent an over-reading of public sentiment -- and may even be stirring some public sympathy for these workers and their right to organize.

Conservatives may retain the upper hand in the broader war over the fate of organized labor -- polls show the public continues to have mixed feelings about unions in general. But for all the distortions and faux populism the right has thrown at public employee unions, Americans just don't seem willing to be manipulated into questioning their basic right to exist.
I may be overly optimistic, but I think if there is a revival of union membership, then people's overall view of unions will become more positive again. Most people who have real world contact with a friend or family member who is in a union discover that they aren't the anti-christ, and people tend to like the things that organized labor fights for, even if they may be worried the word "union".

The momentum from Wisconsin keeps rolling on...

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