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Poll: Californians Gradually Souring On Unions

LOS ANGELES — California has long been a union stronghold, but voters in the strongly Democratic state are gradually taking a more negative view of organized labor, a poll released Friday suggested.

Federal employees from the National Treasury Employees Union call for an end to the October government shutdown at a press conference, Oct. 3, 2013.

The independent Field Poll said that by a narrow margin, more voters said unions do more harm than good, as opposed to those who see organized labor as generally beneficial.

The slide in support represents a turnaround from a 2011 Field survey, when more voters said unions resulted in more good than harm.

The shift comes at a time of ongoing labor conflicts in the state and nation, often involving government employee pensions and retirement benefits.

In the San Francisco Bay Area, two transit strikes this year caused headaches for hundreds of thousands of commuters. Retirement costs for government workers contributed to bankruptcies in three California cities in recent years — Stockton, Vallejo and San Bernardino.

The cost of "public pensions are starting to crowd out the services that local governments can provide. That doesn't sit well with the public," pollster Mark DiCamillo said.

Compared to the earlier poll, unions lost ground across most age, political and demographic groups.

Since 2011 "virtually every voter subgroup now displays a shift toward a somewhat more negative view of labor unions than they had expressed previously," the survey found.

The poll of 1,002 registered voters, conducted Nov. 14 to Dec. 5, found that 45 percent said labor unions do "more harm than good."

That compared to 40 percent who said unions do "more good than harm."

The findings were nearly identical when voters were asked about labor unions, generally, or public employee unions.

Those viewing unions more negatively increased 10 percentage points from March 2011, while the percentage of those viewing unions as more beneficial dropped 6 points during the period, the survey said.

The Democratic Party has long had close ties to unions, but the survey found 30 percent of registered Democrats now say unions do more harm than good, up from 21 percent in the 2011 survey.

More than half of whites, 51 percent, say unions do more harm than good, up from 39 percent in 2011. Even in households with a union member, 31 percent said unions do more harm than good, up from 18 percent in 2011.

Several California mayors want voters to consider an initiative on next year's ballot that would amend the state Constitution to allow local governments to negotiate changes in pension benefits for current and future employees.

Last year, labor groups and other Democratic interests funneled at least $75 million into their drive to defeat Proposition 32, which would have starved unions of the tens of millions of dollars they use to finance campaigns and political organizing.

The survey had a margin of error of plus or minus 3.2 percentage points.

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Avatar for user 'Mmikey'

Mmikey | December 13, 2013 at 8:04 a.m. ― 3 years, 3 months ago

gradually ? I think that boat sailed long ago after the bogus super market strikes.

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Avatar for user 'philosopher3000'

philosopher3000 | December 16, 2013 at 5:40 p.m. ― 3 years, 3 months ago

There is no one to blame but the Unions themselves.

First you must divide Unions into two groups: PUBLIC sector unions and PRIVATE sector unions. About 35% of workers in PUBLIC service are unionized. In 2013 only about 7% of PRIVATE sector workers still belong to unions.

It should be noted that the PURPOSE OF UNIONS is to protect workers by balancing the power of capital. Without unions, companies would have no reason to share profits with workers, they would hire the lowest bidder, and use the influence of their money to influence our politics and buy enough votes to keep labor costs to a minimum. This was the case in the early 20th century and under slavery. Study history.

PRIVATE SECTOR UNIONS have had a long history of struggle in the USA and they are a legitimate and ethical organizing force for those who struggle to survive in the private sector labor market. The most secure unions are those with SKILLED WORKERS, like electricians, plumbers, machinists, even nurses. Less secure but still legitimate labor organizations are UNSKILLED labor unions: hotel workers, sanitation workers, factory workers, warehouse workers, etc. Although some of these unions have been subject to illicit forces of criminal mobs bosses, or used their power to damage industries, like the automobile industry, by making them less competitive than our foreign competition, these PRIVATE SECTOR UNIONS are a force for economic justice, and they suffer the consequences of their actions directly.

PUBLIC SECTOR UNIONS are a much stronger and wealthier than there private sector brothers. They consist of traditionally homogeneous workforces like teachers, prison workers, police, fire-department, and even public sector administrators have 'bargaining groups' which amount to unions. These groups do not need to unionize, because the purpose of a UNION is to BALANCE THE POWER OF CAPITAL. However, in the public sector there is no capital, only the tax payer.

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Avatar for user 'philosopher3000'

philosopher3000 | December 16, 2013 at 5:41 p.m. ― 3 years, 3 months ago

The problem with PUBLIC SECTOR UNIONS is that they use their economic influence to affect public elections, and their financing comes directly from taxes paid by the public, thus these unions essentially uses public tax dollars to influence public elections. This is an unethical and incestuous relationship. It makes no sense for the citizens to pay more money to PUBLIC SECTOR EMPLOYEES because the government is a NOT-FOR-PROFIT service. Thus, there are NO PROFITS to share with labor, only taxes.

Besides the fact that there is not any CAPITAL POWER against which the PUBLIC SECTOR UNION need find balance, and that the union would be using public money to influence public elections, the reason PUBLIC SECTOR UNIONS SHOULD NOT EXIST is because these workers already have direct control over their 'bosses' (the Elected Officials and Public Managers and Administrators). The truth is that the shear number of people who work in the public sector constitute a HUGE block of votes (about 20%), so they have direct control of the elections, and thus the policies of elected officials, simply by virtue of being citizens of the democracy for which they work.

When you include the fact that any citizen can individually donate to a campaign (up to the campaign finance limits) and that every citizen has the individual right to political free speech, these PUBLIC SECTOR UNIONS have no need to organize or form SUPER POLITICAL ACTION COMMITTEES to buy media and influence public opinion. All these PUBLIC SECTOR WORKERS need to do is their duty as citizens, and they can sway any election to their whim. Buy purchasing political influence these PUBLIC SECTOR UNIONS constitute a corrupting force in our democracy.

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Avatar for user 'philosopher3000'

philosopher3000 | December 16, 2013 at 5:42 p.m. ― 3 years, 3 months ago

Another issue with PUBLIC SECTOR UNIONS is that they can not use the normal tools of organized labor to effect change. It is immoral and unethical for PUBLIC SECTOR UNIONS to strike. Imagine who get's hurt if teachers, or police, or fire-departments, or even just sanitation engineers go on strike? It isn't a profitable corporation losing market share, or a car industry losing competitiveness that will also effect labor, the very people who are harmed when the PUBLIC SECTOR UNIONS go on strike are those very citizens these workers have sworn to serve and protect.

I'm a Democrat, I understand exactly how profound the corrupting influence of PUBLIC SECTOR UNIONS has been upon my political party. I also recognize that the PRIVATE SECTOR CAPITAL has been waging a war against ALL UNIONS, so that they can cut the tax burden they pay for the services of government. I recognize that without PUBLIC SECTOR UNIONS - which are technically groups of citizens - there would be no money to balance the PRIVATE SECTOR CAPITAL of international corporations (i.e. super rich 1%) that would run our government.

However, the solution is not to let one corrupting force balance another corrupting force, but to remove all the corruption. Until and unless the PUBLIC SECTOR UNIONS recognize that they are a corrupting force in our politics, and admit that they should seek to eliminate the need for their financing in our politics, then we're never going to fulfill our potential as a society.

We need to banish All Corporate Political Speech, which now has no spending limits under the Citizens United Decision of the U.S. Supreme Court. The corrupting influence of money on our politics must stop, this includes PUBLIC SECTOR UNIONS, else we will never solve the deep diseases in our democracy and our economy.

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Avatar for user 'CaliforniaDefender'

CaliforniaDefender | December 17, 2013 at 12:28 p.m. ― 3 years, 3 months ago

Well said philosopher. I agree 100%.

Private sector unions promote fair pay and job security.

Public sector unions promote corruption and greed.

What is worse is that in "no right to work" states, such as California, all public employees are FORCED to pay hefty union dues each month if they wish to keep their job. Refusing to pay results in being fired immediately. Corrupt and unjust!




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Avatar for user 'MaoTzu'

MaoTzu | December 19, 2013 at 8:58 a.m. ― 3 years, 3 months ago

Sour grapes. People are afraid to stand up for themselves and the people they work with, so they want to take away the benefits that others have gained through their own hard work and struggle.

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Avatar for user 'JeanMarc'

JeanMarc | December 19, 2013 at 9:12 a.m. ― 3 years, 3 months ago

Down with unions! Unions should be outlawed, they destroy companies and protect horrible employees!

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