Anti-union arguments fail to persuade American mainstream

ANTI-UNION ARGUMENTS FAIL TO PERSUADE AMERICAN MAINSTREAM…. The main thrust of the Republican Party’s union-busting efforts, in Wisconsin and elsewhere, is to undermine the Democratic Party electorally, while cutting one of the few remaining champions of working families off at the knees.

To help make that happen, some in the GOP hope to convince the American mainstream that public employees and collective-bargaining rights are some kind of national blight. How’s that effort working out? According to a New York Times/CBS News poll released last night, not at all well.

Americans oppose weakening the bargaining rights of public employee unions by a margin of nearly two to one: 60 percent to 33 percent. While a slim majority of Republicans favored taking away some bargaining rights, they were outnumbered by large majorities of Democrats and independents who said they opposed weakening them.

Those surveyed said they opposed, 56 percent to 37 percent, cutting the pay or benefits of public employees to reduce deficits, breaking down along similar party lines. A majority of respondents who have no union members living in their households opposed both cuts in pay or benefits and taking away the collective bargaining rights of public employees.

Governors in both parties have been making the case that public workers are either overpaid or have overly generous health and pension benefits. But 61 percent of those polled — including just over half of Republicans — said they thought the salaries and benefits of most public employees were either “about right” or “too low” for the work they do.

The poll closely mirrors the results from Gallup last week, but offers more details about public attitudes. In this case, nearly all of those details suggest the arguments from the right are failing badly.

Indeed, one result in particular may cause heart palpitations in some GOP circles: “Asked how they would choose to reduce their state’s deficits, those polled preferred tax increases over benefit cuts for state workers by nearly two to one.”

That’s probably not what Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker (R) wanted to hear.

What’s more, people in every income group oppose compensation and benefit cuts for public employees. Cuts had the most support from those making more than $100,000 a year, and even within this group, a plurality opposed cutting pay or benefits.

If Walker and his allies assumed Americans would rally behind them, these Republicans badly misread public attitudes.

Postscript: And in case that weren’t quite enough, a new survey from the Pew Research Center found Americans siding with workers over Wisconsin’s Walker, 42% to 31%.