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ThePlumLIneGS whorunsgov plumline
Posted at 05:33 PM ET, 03/03/2011

Are Americans rejecting bogus public employee versus taxpayer frame?

You already know that the new NBC/WSJ poll finds strong support for public employee bargaining rights, with 62 percent opposed to eliminating them. But here’s another crucial number from the internals:

Do you think public employees who belong to a union and work for state government, city government, or a school district should have the same right to bargain when it comes to their health care, pension and other benefits as employees who belong to a union and work for private companies?

Yes 77

No 19

Not sure 4

Keep in mind that one of the core arguments from conservatives in favor of rolling back public employee bargaining rights is that public unions are fundamentally different from private ones. Public employee unions are bargaining against the taxpayer, this argument goes, and therefore are not entitled to the same bargaining rights as private sector unions, which are merely bargaining with private employers over a share of profits.

But here we have an overwhelming 77 percent saying they are entitled to the same rights. With all the usual caveats -- this is just one poll, there has been very little polling on such questions, etc. -- this suggests at least the possibility that the “public employee versus taxpayer” frame is a bust.

One of the most important but least appreciated aspects of this standoff has been that efforts to scapegoat public employees in order to divide working Americans against each other seem to be failing, at least on the core question of whether public unions have a right to exist. We’ve already seen that all income groups except higher-end ones have consistently supported public employees in poll after poll. And now the public has strongly endorsed the idea that public unions are entitled to the same bargaining rights as private ones.

By  |  05:33 PM ET, 03/03/2011

 
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