MADISON, Wis. — Americans strongly oppose laws taking away the collective bargaining power of public employee unions, according to a new USA TODAY/Gallup Poll. The poll found 61% would oppose a law in their state similar to such a proposal in Wisconsin, compared with 33% who would favor such a law.
Republican Gov. Scott Walker and Republican legislators in Wisconsin have proposed cutting union rights for most state government workers and making them pay more for benefits. Ohio, New Jersey, Indiana, Iowa and other states with Republican governors are considering similar laws.
Thousands gathered in Madison for an eighth day to protest Walker’s plan. Rallies were also held in Columbus, Ohio, Des Moines and Montpelier, Vt.
“Most people … mistakenly think worker rights come from collective bargaining,” Walker told USA TODAY Tuesday. He said his plan would not remove union workers’ protections from wrongful termination or inappropriate discipline or hiring. “When you alter collective bargaining, it doesn’t alter workers’ rights,” he said.
Walker wants union members to pay more for their health care and pension benefits, moves he and other Republicans say would save $300 million over the next two years as the state faces a projected $3.6 billion budget shortfall.
Fourteen Democratic legislators have left the state for the past week to keep the Senate from having a quorum needed to vote on the bill. Democrats in the Indiana House of Representatives also stayed away from their Capitol on Tuesday as unions protested Republican-backed labor bills.
Almost two-thirds of those polled say their states face budget crises, but respondents oppose or are split on potential solutions, from tax hikes to spending cuts. “This underlines the difficulty of solving these problems,” Jeffrey Jones of Gallup says. “It’s hard to find a consensus on what to do.”