The first major national poll is out and it shows strong support for the right to collectively bargain. Exactly what people have been saying—Walker overreached by using a budget crisis to justify an attack on unions. The poll showed “Americans oppose weakening the bargaining rights of public employee unions by a margin of nearly two to one: 60 percent to 33 percent.” More surprising, and encouraging from my perspective, was this:
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.
In other words, a clear majority understands that pay cuts and health and pension cuts are not necessary to reduce deficits. That this is true is especially encouraging amid reports now coming out detailing the years of planning and plotting that went into this effort in Wisconsin. Politico has the best article I have yet seen on the millions of dollars that have been spent in recent years by major Republican operatives on how best to exploit the issue of public sector unions. It clearly demonstrates that
The conservative assault on public sector unions that seemed to explode out of nowhere in Wisconsin and spread across the Midwest was in fact months – if not years – in the making, the result of methodical polling, lobbying, messaging, grassroots organizing and policy crafting by a coterie of well-funded conservative groups.
Even the focus on Wisconsin seems to have been a deliberately provocative choice by the conservative groups that have been itching for a fight for years. The article includes a quote from Ned Ryun, head of a group called American Majority, in which he claims “The 100-year-old Progressive experiment can be stopped and buried in the very place (Wisconsin) where it was born.” But as I argued in an earlier blog, and as the New York Times/CBS News poll shows, Wisconsin is once again breathing life into the Progressive movement and backbone into the Democratic Party.