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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 opinion turns against labor unions in California

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.

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.

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.

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.  

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Comment Preferences

  •  Good will towards unions is kind of like... (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    lcrp, Chi

    ...good will from foreign countries.

    It only lasts until you try to do something that inconveniences them.

    Public service unions always risk a backlash, since suspending their services makes life harder for the general public.

  •  I've had the same discussion over and over (16+ / 0-)

    Workers who say "We don't need unions" or "Why do we have to pay the dues?  They don't do anything for us" (I work in a school district)  I ask them how they like their benefits, their sick days, the guaranteed salary increases.  I say, in the past, do you think these benefits were just given to workers one day by employers out of the goodness of their hearts?  People are shockingly ignorant, even people who are educated and should know better.  It's depressing.

    Don't be that white guy telling African Americans what is and isn't racist.--kos

    by chicago minx on Fri Dec 13, 2013 at 08:46:29 AM PST

  •  It's an indictment of the Democratic Party (12+ / 0-)

    The party has failed to either work for employment stability and wage equity in the private sector or to work to maintain strong unions.  The middle class is being hollowed out and this has generated resentment.  Instead of fighting the good fight in a class war, the neo-liberals joined the opposition army and the Wall Street casino.

    I mean what is the Democratic Party about?  If you can't point to any achievement on the economic equity and justice side, I just wonder what are we even doing here.  You're never, ever going to get the poor out of poverty if there is no middle class.  If you aren't about the middle class, you're about nothing but plutocracy.

    Just look at the budget.  It's not that federal workers are more deserving than people on food stamps but it's the message that they've sent one more time.  We're not going to defend the middle class, on with the imperial empire, defended by volunteers who just got their pensions cut to pay off defense lobbies.

    •  Some sort of new direction (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Chi, LeftOverAmerica

      is required. I don't think that it is likely possible to just roll the clock back to the days of the new deal. We live in a different world. One of the major differences is that it is much more globalized and that isn't going to be reversed. All the Democrats as a party have to offer is slowing the progress of the neoliberal tectonic shift.

      •  We surrendered to globalization (8+ / 0-)

        What is the point of the Imperial Empire if all we do is fight primitive tribes in Afghan caves while we surrender the manufacturing, IT and every other sector to Asia?  

        At best and with zero commitment all we hear is "jobs", as if that describes the problem of sustaining a labor environment capable of sustaining a middle class.  

        I agree we can't be stuck in the New Deal but we sure don't have that 21st century New Direction.  Instead, we're going to revisit the 1990's because don't stop thinking about yesterday, it will soon be here.

    •  I guess Dems figure FIRE will handle GOTV (9+ / 0-)

      in future.   Labor is the entity that can put the most people out in the streets for Dems in even-numbered falls. Forget about right or wrong here--any party that doesn't care enough to protect its organizational backbone is a party that has a political death wish.

      Some men see things as they are and ask why. I dream of things that never were and ask why not?

      by RFK Lives on Fri Dec 13, 2013 at 09:00:50 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  I do not understand it. . . (13+ / 0-)

    . . .That is, how anyone who works for a wage can be anti union.  Since unions have begun to decline, the average income for all working people has declined. That is bad for all of us.

    Unions exist to give individuals a collective voice, similar (as similar as possible to management) so that they can negotiate with some semblance of equality.  To me unions are the distillation of capitalism.  That is that an exchange occurs between two free parties with equal and free access to information resulting in an exchange that is known and agreed to by all parties.

    Up here near Everett Washington, the battle between unions and Boeing continues apace.  Boeing set up a competition between states to reduce wages and benefits forcing American States to fight each other by offering huge inducement packages  (You should see Washington's package).  Every citizen of Washington will pay for that inducement.
    Boeing uses, the increased competition from AirBus as their unbelievable excuse.  When I was a kid there were at least five firms manufacturing passenger airliners.  Now there are two.  I do not remember all of my college economic classes, but the way I learned it, the reduction in the number of firms manufacturing passenger airplanes reduces competition.

    Unions serve a logical purpose.  Destroying them will increase the concentration of wealth into the hands of a few and that concentration will ultimately reduce business growth.  I don't get it.

    The right has been pounding at unions with increasing stridence since old Twenty Mule Team Borax was governor of California.  The decline of unions is a testament to Herman Goering's statement that the powerful can lead people wherever they want them to go.  How discouraging.

    If we are going to elect Democrats, lets elect real ones!

    by waztec on Fri Dec 13, 2013 at 09:03:27 AM PST

  •  media ownership (8+ / 0-)

    is at the heart of the problem, IMO.  Way too many people get all of their information that is ditributed, almost exclusively, by newspapers and TV channels owned by moguls and corporations with a vested interest in reducing the power of the working people.

    San Diego's Union-Tribune is a classic example.  owned by developer Doug Manchester, it takes every opportunity to bash unions, and only puts on the front page that which will advance the cases of its owner.  Other newspapers and virtually all TV stations are owned by even larger and less humane entities.

    And they only tell you what they want you to hear.

    I am not religious, and did NOT say I enjoyed sects.

    by trumpeter on Fri Dec 13, 2013 at 09:42:34 AM PST

  •  The BART strikes didn't help at all (0+ / 0-)

    and probably a main catalyst for plunging support.  

    'Slower Traffic - Keep Right!'

    by luvbrothel on Fri Dec 13, 2013 at 10:49:12 AM PST

  •   we cant recreate exactly the new Deal, but we can (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    JeffW, Minnesota Deb, LakeSuperior

    take the best of it and apply to now
    Then; CCC hired 3.2 million men ages 18-25 earned 1 dollar a day 30 a month
    Now: CCC Hires anyone over 18 that is willing to work regardless of gender or race pay 10-12 an hour.1600-1920 a month
    Then FDR proposed Department of Conservation Combining Parks with Forests
     Now; Department of Conservation includes CCC EPA, National forests, fish and Wildlife and national parks, with the 5 directors having the power to set aside areas as monuments.
     Then Public Works Administration improved roads and infrastructure projects
     now public works,  green up roofs, put in solar panels, improve sewer  and general health
     Of course this will cost money, likely trillions. but what you have to remember is the government can never run out of money. we can spend as much as we need, so that the most citizens in the country can improve their lot. right now we're not doing that.

  •  It's already done nt (0+ / 0-)

    nosotros no somos estúpidos

    by a2nite on Fri Dec 13, 2013 at 11:09:59 AM PST

  •  No wonder we're down to 11% (0+ / 0-)

    of U.S. workers.

    "I was not born for myself alone, but for my neighbor as well as myself."--Richard Overton, leader of the Levellers, a17th C. movement for democracy and equality during the English Civil War. for healthcare coverage in Kentucky

    by SouthernLeveller on Fri Dec 13, 2013 at 04:02:18 PM PST

  •  the 'Dems' (0+ / 0-)

    all but murdered American labor unions with nafta, and we've seen the sad results of their search for alternate streams of financial support ever since.

    If politicians no longer get to draw on a bottomless pit of union money, they no longer vocally advocate or defend them. The deafening silence from (most) national Dems means that the wealthy and their surrogates set the tone, and public opinion follows.

    Sadly, it's much easier to for our adversaries to point their fingers at those that have earned pensions and say 'He's got too much!' than it is to make the argument that everyone else is getting too little.

    Doesn't help that the '96 telecommunications act handed the media over to a handful of robber barons either. Hard to get the word out about the bad guys when you have to borrow their megaphone to do it.

    Same old story... Rich guy sits across the table from two working people, with a plate of 12 cookies sitting between them. Rich guy takes 11 cookies for himself and puts his arm around one of the working people.. 'Brother' he says, 'That guy is trying to take your cookie!'

    "...You're makin' all our decisions... We have just one request of you..." - j.lennon

    by LeftOverAmerica on Fri Dec 13, 2013 at 08:46:32 PM PST

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