Wisconsin’s Governor Scott Walker likes to say that he has a mandate to take away collective bargaining rights from public workers, but if Wisconsin residents are anything like their counterparts in the rest of the US, that assertion is wrong. A poll released last week by the Pew Research Center for the People and Press shows that more people in the US side with public worker unions than state and local governments when there is a dispute between unions and government.
The poll found that 44 percent of the respondents sided with unions when they heard about a dispute between unions and state and local government while 38 percent said they sided with government. The poll is based on the results of a survey conducted between February 2 and February 7.
The poll also found that 48 percent of the respondents had a favorable view of public sector unions while 40 percent had an unfavorable view.
Another poll that was taken about a week earlier by Pew found that there was no mandate for cutting public workers pensions to balance state budgets. When asked whether states should balance their budgets by cutting state workers’ pensions, 47 percent said no and 47 percent said yes.
This last finding is remarkable considering the fact that for the last six months media outlets as diverse as the New York Times and Fox News have run misleading stories based on irrelevant factoids and outright lies saying that state worker pensions are bankrupting state governments. And politicians as diverse as Republican Governor Walker and New York Democratic Governor Andrew Cuomo used the same message in their campaigns.
The first Pew survey found that overall favorability ratings for both public and private sector unions are at their lowest level in a quarter of a century. Forty-five percent said they had a favorable view of unions, down from about 60 percent in 2000.
But business doesn’t fare much better. Only 47 percent said that they had a favorable view of business, down from a peak of nearly 80 percent in 2000.
The decline in support for both unions and business probably is the result of the general decline in the economy that occurred during the first decade of this century. People are seeing their standards of living decline, which creates a general discontent with the institutions that are part of the economy.
Meanwhile in Madison, 70,000 people turned out Saturday for another march and rally against the governor’s “bust the unions” bill. There also were demonstrations in other parts of the state. Demonstrations in Madison are scheduled to take place through Tuesday. Democratic lawmakers, who left the state so that no action could be taken on the bill, said that they would stay where they are until Gov Walker agrees to negotiations on the bill.