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Feb-28-2011 23:19printcomments

Majority in National Poll Back Employees in Public Unions

71% of Democrats opposed weakening collective bargaining rights; 62% of Independents also opposed.

Courtesy: Nevada AGC

(SALEM, Ore.) - A New York Times and CBS poll has fund that a majority of Americans support the employees in public unions.

The nationwide poll found that most Americans and most independents support the embattled workers.


1. Unions:

  • one third view them favorably
  • one quarter unfavourably
  • the rest are undecided or say they don’t know enough about them

2. Bargaining rights should be curtailed

  • Yes 33%
  • No 60%

A slim majority of Republicans said Yes

3. Cut public employees pay and benefits

  • Yes 37%
  • No 55%

Sixty-one percent polled, including just over half of Republicans said public employee pay and benefits were either “about right” or “too low”

4. Retirement

Should police and fire fighters be able to retire in their 40s and 50s?

  • Yes 49%
  • Should be older 44%

The results were about the same for teachers.

5. What to do

  • Increase taxes 40%
  • Decrease public employee benefits 22%
  • Cut financing for roads 20%
  • Cut financing for education 3%

6. Political parties

  • Democrats 71% opposed weakening collective bargaining rights
  • Independents 62% opposed

Forty one percent of respondents said they believed that weakening unions was behind the governors’ actions.

Forty-five percent of those earning more than $100k were in favour; 49% opposed.

Those making $15k to $30k: 35% favoured cuts while 60% were opposed.

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Kevin March 5, 2011 8:51 am (Pacific time)

I believe the below poster was saying that when the government puts out their unemployment numbers, they understate them, most likely for political reasons. By looking at the numbers in the overall work force, and then seeing how many people are actually working and those that are not, will give a more accurate unemployment count. Back in 2008 when gas prices were similar to what they are now, unemployment was at 5.9%. The administration now claims it to be 8.9%, which is absurd, it's much higher. Gallup recently provided a 10.3% rate. Of course these numbers do not include those who quit looking for work, and those who are underemployed. There exists clear evidence that the Obama's administration's policies has hampered energy production, which has seriously damaged our ability to create news jobs. Lowering taxes and increasing energy production has proven time after time to be the best method of turning around a depressed economy. Of course for you Keynesians out there in never never land, you will always remain clueless about the real economic forces at play. I imagine that's because most of you have never run a business, just sat on the sidelines and complained about how unfair life is for you, and how you want a redistribution of the wealth you never helped to create. I would love to have the same corporate tax rate as some other countries. I could sell my products at a much lower cost, invest in more equipment and hire more people. As it is, our costs continue to skyrocket because of energy price increases, which will cause us to cut back during spring planting. How many of you out there can even comprehend that? Doing is knowing! Food production is going to be controlled by fewer and fewer corporations, then forget about competetive prices, even availability of some products. Hungry people are easily to manipulate, it also makes people very angry.

Anonymous March 4, 2011 6:25 pm (Pacific time)

was looking at these oil price comparisons between Nixon, Bush and Obama. First of all Nixon was dealing with forces setting oil prices he had no control over. We were still involved in Vietnam, though it was winding down somewhat. In regards to Bush, he used his executive power to drill for more oil, and OPEC increased production, which was a real shame because we could have gotten on a roll and developed more of our resources in quick order. In Obama's case, it has been his policies that has caused the dramatic "decrease" in our production curve and OPEC has responded once again by using any excuse to raise costs. It is clearly an incredibly lackluster leadership by Obama and those around him who have caused this huge and growing cost spike. I could care less about the 2012 election (Obama is toast no matter what he does anyway), I'm concerned about a double dip recession. Don't look at our unemployment rate, look at how many people are actually working. Our economy is shrinking so it's more accurate to count the actual workers, not the other way around. If and when we begin developing our resources OPEC will continue to play us and the rest of the world. In time we will increase production and once again because of our second to none capability we will continue to maintain our world leadership. And the planet will be a much safer place because of that leadership. Here come the detractors...

So, "Nixon was dealing with forces setting oil prices he had no control over." You're implying/suggesting/asserting  that Bush and Obama had control over global forces (welcome to Fantasyland). The US has something like 170 military bases around the world. Obviously not enough. Now that Iraq and Afghanistan are under American control (thanks G. W. Bush, for that), now it's time to take over Iran, Lebanon, Libya, Bahrain, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, hell, take over North Korea at the same time. Then you'll have some global control. LOL

As far as workers are concerned--If you look at the number of workers in a shrunken economy, you are ignoring the tens of millions workers and their families who are not  part the reduced economy. What are you going to do with them? Put them in storage until the economy picks up. 

Mills March 3, 2011 11:43 am (Pacific time)

DJ have you any suggestions how these resources should be allocated? Pretty unlikely for the unforseeable future that tax rates will be changed. How about us charging foreign countries that we have troops in to pay for our protection? We have been protecting (and dieing for) South Korea for 61 years now. Should we charge them or bring our troops home and save money that way? How about all those forces in Europe? If we charge for our protection, how should we do it? I say pro-rate charges by individual population count. Make it retroactive to when we first put troops in those locations. In regards to Canada, let's make it retroactive to when the USSR first exploded their A-Bomb (not the H-Bomb). Actually just Canada alone could be appropriately charged to literally erase our national debt. Sound fair? I mean a new era is upon us. Maybe all increased tariffs on all Canadian products. But nothing would be more beneficial to "us" than "drill baby dril." In 2001 when oil hit $150 per barrel, Bush ordered the moratorium on offshore drilling stopped and OPEC (a cartel, not part of the "free market system) started cutting prices real quick. For example DJ, in the first 2 years of the Bush Administration, oil prices dropped 8%, and in the first 2 years of Obama it has increased 55%. America and the world run on oil. Obama's policies have caused these problems and watch how he in time is made more and more irrelevant. America is much bigger than hustlers, they will be vanquished, in earnest. Know our history, not how you think it is. Canada follows are lead, and that's the way it is.

The tax rates need to be changed, if you are to make any progress. As it stands now the U.S. is the least financially  equitable country in the Western world (after Switzerland, which is a special case).

Bush reduced taxes on the rich. What’s wrong with inverting that and cutting taxes for the middle class (what’s left of it) and increasing taxes for the rich? And I’m not talking about a percent or two—start breaking up the big fortunes by actually taxing capital. Leave fortunes under $500 million alone and go after the big rich. It will not harm any of them and make them go on austerity budgets.

Get out of Iraq and Afghanistan which would save trillions over the next few years. There’s the old definition of insanity—doing the same thing over and over but expecting different results.

Your ridiculous comparison of oil prices in the first two years of Bush 1 and Obama makes no sense. Here’s another comparison. From 1972-73, under Nixon, oil prices went up more than 300% (from $3.65 to $12/bbl) See how meaningless such comparisons are?

And suggesting that Canada follows America’s lead inevitably is equally unfounded. We have no bankrupt towns or cities. It’s not even a topic we need to discuss. Our national debt and deficit are high, but they are manageable.. 

The fundamental point I am making is that Americans need to rethink what their nation is actually about--the old model is clearly not working. 

Mills March 3, 2011 10:41 am (Pacific time)

As Obama rakes in historic campaign contributions from Wall Street money, liberals claim Republicans are beholden to "the rich." However that may be, it is far more true, and far less remarked upon, that the Democratic Party is the party of public sector unions. Maybe some more info out to the general public will have an impact on future polls regarding the misinformation being put out that union members earn less than private citizens in most state locations? "Wisconsin one of 41 states where public workers earn more": Wisconsin is one of 41 states where public employees earn higher average pay and benefits than private workers in the same state, a USA TODAY analysis finds... The analysis of government data found that public employees’ compensation has grown faster than the earnings of private workers since 2000... Wisconsin is typical. State, city and school district workers earned an average of $50,774 in wages and benefits in 2009, about $1,800 more than in the private sector. The state ranked 33rd in public employee compensation among the states and Washington, D.C. It had ranked 20th in 2000…In contrast, California’s public employees enjoyed soaring compensation throughout that state’s decade-long budget crisis." Taxes and fees have gone up to cover these union benefits, but there is no more money and no more tax increases will be overtly raised because of the economy. See what is happening in Ohio. Far more intense than projected laws for Wisconsin. This is about fairness, and we the private taxpayers need relief and will have it. Ohio cities Cleveland and Cincinnati have just half the population they had in the 1950's and the state has lost nearly 600,000 people in the last ten years. These people went after the jobs that left Ohio because of rising taxes. Same migration of jobs is happening in many other states like California. Eventually the same system that the Federal Unions have will be the end result, and even that is unfair to us taxpayers. The democratic party better start looking for other campaign dollars instead of from "we the taxpayers," which has been laundered and manipulated by unions via dues. The beginning of a new, more fair era, is starting. The Marxists have been outed and defeated. HooRah!

DJ: The top 5% of the population controls more than 90% of the nation's wealth. Will that be included in "the beginning of a new, more fair era"? That's the fundamental reason for the economic problems--The vast majority of the citizenry have little or even negative net worth. Or do you have another explanation?

Just wondering. 

Charlene Young March 3, 2011 9:20 am (Pacific time)

Henry have you ever participated in a professionally-designed political poll? I can see by many of the below posts some seem to be confused how they best reflect the population during that "snapshot moment." In response to one confused poster, for best results, you weigh your samples by getting as close to the party membership national percentages. In this case: Democrats, Republicans, and Independents. You then randomly contact those "within that individual sample." In political polls you just don't go willy nilly and make random calls to the general population, that is, if you want to be [more] accurate. If you knowingly (or unknowingly) weigh your samples inaccurately, then that will skew the results and make the polls reliability and validity questionable in terms of accuracy, regardless of the +/- MOE percentage, or statistical formula you apply. The most accurate pollsters out there will use "likely voters", while others use registered voters (less reliable) and adults over 18(less reliable than the latter). There are sites that tally and compare all national polls out there for their ultimate accuracy as per election results. Using "likely voters" consistently have the most accurate results. As you know the saying: There are lies, damn lies, and statistics." There are groups who specialize in push polling to try to impact opinion rather than measure it. My husband was heavily involved in designing marketing programs, using very advanced statistical research methods. I spent some time in my early years helping to elect a number of politicians, there was one that had an amazing career in Oregon state and national politics: an excellent governor and senator, though not pleased with all of his policies and votes. There is a significant difference between political and marketing polls. It's not a perfect science, but there are ways to be more accurate if you have the expertise (and money), and professional integrity.

Hank Ruark March 2, 2011 8:12 pm (Pacific time)

Bill G.: Do you see new publication, the weekly published by CScienceMonitor ? Was decades-long reader of their daily, one of most reliable, honest and fully informative dailes ever printed, now not produced. This weekly is fine substitute. Seek it out and see (p.16, current issue) strong article with solid numbers on union vs private sector pay. (NO -am NOT C-Scientist !)

Hank Ruark March 2, 2011 8:07 pm (Pacific time) al: You miss the obvious other-answerm C,-friend: Raise the taxlevel on those coasting blithely now and hiding the pelf overseas. Happens to be mostly corporatiions but also a bunch of richies well-tied into political contributions and much else shaping power distribution in U.S., now about to undergo some drastic changes, long overdue. Current downwards trend for union membership generally is consequence of 30 years of attack begun and built on Reagan falsity of "Govt. IS the Problem !" - shaping attitudes and actions in financial, fiscal, Wall St. and corporate management, abetted by widespread mis-use of deregulation, privatization and distortion of global-ization. Stay tuned for further detail via OpEds upcoming...

Bill G. March 2, 2011 2:11 pm (Pacific time)

Editor: If I might add about the margins of error, those are included for both numbers so they actually could be much further apart. For example we know the majority of Americans want congress to cut spending, no way to a tax increase. It was this majority that gave the House to the republicans along with the majority of governorships and state legislatures last November. So this plurality is no doubt much higher (probably a majority if you add the margin of error+) considering the skewed results of the overall poll, because of the weighted samples were also heavily skewed towards democrats and union memberships, a significant error that made the poll both invalid and unreliable in my opinion. An interesting aside here is that Wisconsin is one of the few states where union members actually make more money than the average state citizen. California's answer has always been to kick the can down the road while they increase taxes and fees on literally everything, and how are they doing? For some reason, a big chunk of people simply cannot understand that we're broke, and the states cannot print money, and congress is not going to give them anymore. The Stimulus Bill, which others have referred to, was a major reason this is going to be getting so painful for everyone. Time to sacrifice, you have no choice, and until we have new leadership, get use to it.

DJ: You don’t appear to know how polling works. The polling was not skewed, but rather a random sample was polled and, in fairness, they released the proportions of Democrats/Republicans and union members. That’s because those are relevant factors for interpretation. They did not release gender or age information although if it would have been relevant it would have been included. They did not set out to poll union members or Democrats so the results are both valid and reliable insofar as any polling is.

Both numbers could be much further apart but, similarly, they could also be much closer together. That’s what margins of error are for. In this case it was 3% so the results are within 37% and 48% overall. You don't acknowledge how ti could be either way.

Here is my real point. The only reason Americans are in the financial mess they are in is because of virtually total economic irresponsibility that goes back to the 1960s. No one wants taxes raised because people believe in their heart of hearts that they can still have amenities because someone else will pay for them. If a society wants clean air, clean water, good education for their children, safe streets and on and on, they (no surprise) will cost money. I’m going to demonstrate this down on the ground.

For years I’ve noticed a funny thing sometimes when I go to the supermarket. The person ahead of me will be waiting as all their stuff is rung through. At the end the cashier says: “That will be $57.82.

Then some of the people, (both men and women will do it) pick up their purse or pull their wallet out and get cash or credit cards. It’s at this point that I interrupt them and ask: “Did you think it was going to be free?” This earns me a dirty look but they go ahead and pay for it, anyway.

It’s the same with taxpayers en masse. They want clean water, education, safe streets then act as if they are saying: “Oh, I’m supposed to pay for this?” 

As far as leadership is concerned, George Bush started two unfounded wars and cut taxes for the rich and in 2004, the American people re-elected him! Tells the whole story. 

Charlene Young March 2, 2011 9:58 am (Pacific time)

Liking or disliking the results have nothing to do with it. Understanding how polls are structured, and understanding how they can be used to "push" public opinion is invaluable, don't you think? Here is some more data from that same poll which gives a bit of a different perspective some I believe would like the voters not to be aware of, possibly. "Plurality Says Labor Unions Have Too Much Influence According to CBS/NY Times Poll... Thirty-seven percent (37%) of American adults think labor unions have “too much influence on American life and politics today,” according to a recently released CBS News/New York Times poll... Only half as many (19%) believe that unions have too little influence... A similar plurality finds that American adults prefer spending cuts over tax hikes as a way to reduce state budget deficits... Given a list of four options, 45% say their top choice is a reduction in spending, while 40% pick a tax hike.

DJYou write: "Given a list of four options, 45% say their top choice is a reduction in spending, while 40% pick a tax hike." 

Given margins of error, the respondents appear pretty close to evenly split, like American society itself. The Second Civil War is underway--worker against worker, as the rich continue their campaign to decimate/eliminate the middle class. As A. Lincoln said: "A house divided against itself cannot stand."

Charlene Young March 1, 2011 6:02 pm (Pacific time)

Polls can be far more illuminating if one has access to the internal questions and the data on how these polls were weighted. Those who have had courses in statistics are generally first taught about the terms "reliability" and "validity" and how they are reflected in the polls and their population sampling. As one goes further into statistical instruction, usually on the post graduate level, they learn how some can manipulate data, and that's when we get introduced to "push polls" and their malevolent nature. First, the partisan split in the above poll sample gave a ten-point advantage to Democrats. Their sample for this poll had a D/R/I split of 36/26/31, an absurd sample for political polling. In December, Rasmussen’s general-population survey put Republicans ahead, 36.0% to 34.7% for Democrats. A recent poll by Gallup shows erosion in Democratic affiliation all through 2010. In 2008, Barack Obama won the popular vote by seven points nationwide, and the NYT/CBS poll assumes that the electorate has grown more Democratic in 2011. Next, 20% of the poll’s respondents claim to come from union households. However, only 11.9% of American workers belong to a union, according to a report published by the Bureau of Labor Statistics last month and noted by none other than the Times itself. Union membership fell to a 70-year low as a percentage of the work force. Finally, 25% of respondents are either public employees or share a household with a public employee. Federal employees comprise less than 2% of the workforce at around 2 million. Overall, the US has 22.22 million government employees out of an employed workforce of 130.27 million, according to the Current Employment Statistics survey at the BLS. Government employment accounts for 17% of all workers, so a sample consisting of 25% public-sector households for a survey of adults (not registered voters) seems a little off. Of course, if state governments have a deficit, what must they do to balance their budgets? The same thing most families/indivduals must do, cut back on spending. I also taught math, among other subjects.

If you don't  like the results, just say so.

Actually, when you get down to the quantum level,  it's all meaningless, anyway. 

Anonymous March 1, 2011 12:02 pm (Pacific time)

This particular poll is agenda-driven and has no scientific merit. As time unfolds, it will be evident that the American voter agrees with the Wisconsin Governor.

Do any polls have any scientific validity?

Seems as if, if you don't like it, it has no scientific validity 

Danielis March 1, 2011 1:33 am (Pacific time)

Bob Herbert closes his Feb 28 column on solidarity with: " for workers today who are fighting to hold off the tide of lower living standards. It is not a struggle that can possibly be won alone."

Read his whole column here:

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