In the past couple of years, Republican lawmakers have aggressively challenged the power of unions and the rights of government employees. In states like Wisconsin and Ohio, governors have sought to roll back union members' collective bargaining rights, and state workers' pensions are on the chopping block across the country. Yet a new Bloomberg poll finds that a plurality of Americans are still on workers' sides.
Seventy-two percent of those surveyed have a favorable view of public employees (who make up the majority of union members now that manufacturing has declined), compared with 17 percent who have an unfavorable view. Sixty-three percent—including a majority of Democrats and independents—think corporations have more political say than unions. About half say the government is unfairly targeting unions, and 63 percent don’t think states should be able to break their promises to retirees. Republicans and Democrats are largely in line when it comes to pensions and collective bargaining rights, though the two parties are split when it comes to forgoing some benefits. Generally, we're more concerned with unemployment and job security than government deficits.
Like the birth control debate, it seems anti-union lawmakers are veering to the right of public opinion. Many Americans are aware of the benefits of unions, even as the majority of us aren't in unionized jobs. Even Ronald Reagan supported collective bargaining. And union members are notoriously politically active; they're more likely to vote and give money to Democratic campaigns. If lawmakers continue to take the liberty of sidestepping majority sentiment, they may feel the effects in November.