By Paul Kersey -
For decades, labor unions have used public demonstrations such as rallies, pickets or strikes to generate public support for their cause. But in 2013, unions learned the hard way that this strategy can backfire on them.
A recent poll by the Field Research Corp. showed public support of government unions in California plummeted over the past 2.5 years. Californians now believe unions “do more harm than good.”
As of December, 45 percent of registered voters in the state believed unions do “more harm than good,” whereas 35 percent believe they do more good. Incredibly, this amounts to an 11 percent decrease in favorability since 2011 when 46 percent believed unions did “more good than harm.” Essentially, the opinion of organized labor has flipped in the past few years.
Labor disputes have inevitably had a large impact on Californians’ opinions of unions. One stark example is the Bay Area Rapid Transit, or BART, workers’ strike in July and October 2013. This event displaced 400,000 commuters in the San Francisco bay area, essentially paralyzing the area’s economy. The strike had such a negative effect on the public that California politicians recently have proposed a bill to outlaw transit workers’ ability to go on strike.
In fact, public opinion shows Bay Area and northern California voters, more so than not, now believe transit workers should be denied the ability to strike. A ban on police and firefighters strikes is already law in California.
This development should serve as a warning to union leadership nationwide, as even traditionally union-friendly regions can shift their opinion when pushed too far. In addition to understanding how government union strikes disrupt the lives and safety of the public, Illinois unions need to take notice of the negative effects strikes can have on public opinion.
Paul Kersey is Director of Labor at the Illinois Policy Institute