The neoliberal tide has long been making a concerted and coordinated effort to wipe organized labor off the face of the American landscape. They are approaching success with employment in the private sector. Union membership there is now down to 9%. The efforts are now focused on public employee unions where there is still significant membership. California has historically been one of the most liberal/progressive states in the country. Now the Field Poll, a generally respected survey shows that union support in the state has passed a tipping point.
Public support for labor unions has plunged in California, with more voters for the first time saying they do more harm than good, according to a new Field Poll.There are two major issues that are being used to create a negative image of public unions, strikes that disrupt public services such as transit and public employee pensions. There continues to be a distinct partisan divide where unions are concerned. California Democrats have historically had a strong alliance with labor with them being very dependent on unions as a source of campaign funding. However, some of them are beginning to smell a change in the wind and decide that it is time to channel the ghost of Ronald Reagan. The most high profile example is Chuck Reed, Democratic mayor of San Jose, who is aggressively sponsoring a ballot measure to provide legal authority to roll back pension benefits. California has a provision in the state constitution similar to that of Michigan which protects the pensions of public employees. The issue of the power of bankruptcy courts to override this is being tested in San Bernadino just as it is in Detroit.
A plurality of registered voters – 45 percent – now feel that way, compared to 40 percent who say they do more good.
The poll registers a dramatic, 10 percentage point change in public opinion from two years ago, when voters rated labor unions far more positively. The measure follows heated controversies around public pensions, municipal bankruptcies and political campaigns involving organized labor – one of the most influential forces in California’s Democratic politics.
The strategy of the neoliberal think tanks that design and mount public relations campaigns has been to create an atmosphere of conflict between workers in the private sector and those working for governments. The latter are portrayed as freeloaders eating out of the public trough at the expense of hard working tax payers. This poll is the latest in a series of events that indicate that their strategy continues to work.