Gallup: Majority Support Making it Easier to Form Unions

18 03 2009

A new Gallup poll found that 53 percent of the American public favors making it easier for workers to form a union, the chief aim of the Employee Free Choice Act.

As expected, the poll found that sharp divisions along party lines with 60 percent of Republicans opposed to making it easier to form unions while 70 percent of Democrats are support the idea. Most independents (52 to 41 percent) also support making it easier to organize a union.

But Gallup also found that among the respondents who follow the issue, i.e. EFCA, closely in the press 58 percent are opposed to making it easier to form a union.

Those hardly following the news about EFCA are the most supportive, 58 percent, of the general concept of a law making it easier for unions to organize. There is also an even split, 49 to 49, among those who report only following the issue “somewhat closely” in the press.

While this suggests that most Americans are generally supportive of union organizing, it’s still too early to tell whether or not such levels of public support will endure, and if it does, to what degree once the right wing attack machine gets going. As Gallup noted on its site, “The Employee Free Choice Act is a complex piece of legislation with numerous components, making it difficult to assess overall support for the bill among a population that is largely unaware of it.”

Substantial public support for the principles EFCA could fade once the opponents of the bill seize on elements that are at best debatable and at worst willfully distorted, such as the provision regarding secret ballots and majority sign up.

Under EFCA, workers can form a union through a secret ballot election if they want it or if a majority of workers sign up to join one. So, the secret ballot option is preserved, its just not the only way to form a union. But the choice would be made by workers themselves and not their bosses. Under current law, however, employers still reserve the right to insist on a secret ballot election before having to recognize a union.

Employers can unnecessarily stall secret ballot elections by quibbling with how they are conducted – a tactic that can delay unionizing efforts for years. Workers requesting an NLRB supervised election are denied one four out of 10 times. And even in instances where elections are conducted employers find a way to interfere with them 46 percent of the time by targeting those initiating the drive for unionization either by cutting hours, firing, or intimidation them by other means, according to American Rights at Work .

Not surprisingly, much of the debate surrounding EFCA has revolved around whether or not secret ballots are necessary and a new Rasmussen poll found that “Sixty-one percent (61%) of Americans say it is fair to require a vote by secret ballot if workers want to form a union”  including “sixty-seven percent (67%) of Republicans believe it is fair to require a secret ballot along with 54% of Democrats and 62% of those not affiliated with either major party.”

It also found that an implausible astonishing 68 percent of union members polled agreed that requiring a vote union by secret ballot is fair. By the same token, however, 57 percent of the respondents agreed that it’s difficult to form a union.

Of course, it goes without saying that Rasmussen has reputation, at least among those in the lefty blogosphere, for overstating support for conservative positions.

EFCA has already been introduced in both chambers of Congress, though early indications suggest it will be a tough slog. For his part, President Obama supports EFCA and even claimed it was a top priority for his administration. Earlier this month, the president told labor leaders that:

The truth is, the road ahead will not be easy. The economic crisis we face is vast and the challenges we confront are many; you know this because your members have already had to make sacrifices. But I have every confidence that if we are willing to do the difficult work that must be done, we will emerge from these trials stronger and more prosperous than we were before. And as we confront this crisis and work to provide health care to every American, rebuild our nation’s infrastructure, move toward a clean energy economy, and pass the Employee Free Choice Act, I want you to know that you will always have a seat at the table.

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