(Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)
(Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

The latest Field Poll has found a striking shift in the views of California and Bay Area voters toward unions, including public-employee unions.

The findings indicate 45 percent of Californians now say that unions do more harm than good, compared to 40 percent who say they do more good than harm. As recently as March 2011, according to the Field Poll, 46 percent believed that unions did more good than harm, with only 35 percent believing they did more harm than good.

The findings are notable in a state that generally has had a pro-union history and is currently dominated politically by the Democratic party, which is closely affiliated with the unions.

Bay Area voters, who endured two disruptive BART strikes in 2013 and narrowly averted a third, are now more opposed to public-employee unions having the right to strike than voters in the rest of the state.

Statewide, a narrow majority (47 to 44 percent) continues to support the right of public union workers, like those employed by BART, to strike. But in the wake of the BART strikes, by a 52 to 41 percent margin, Bay Area voters say they oppose allowing public transit workers the right to strike.

From the AP:

California Labor Federation spokesman Steve Smith said the figures show the results of a well-funded, coordinated attack on unions by corporate interests that want to abolish organized labor.

He agreed that the San Francisco transit strikes and ongoing disputes over the cost and size of pensions had some impact in shifting public views, but added that the public often overlooks the positive work union members do, including helping low-wage workers and pushing for a higher minimum wage.

“Year to year, poll to poll, these numbers fluctuate,” he said. “We’ve got to continue to fight those fights, and fight those fights in a very visible way.”

“Without a labor movement, the middle class will disappear,” Smith added.

The statewide Field Poll was conducted by telephone with a random sample of 1,002 California registered voters in English and Spanish from November 14 through December 5.

  • guest

    Almost THERE!!!!! Keep up striking and we the PUBLIC will remove your striking ability, Yippee, hurrah…goodbye


David Weir

David Weir is KQED's senior editor for digital news.  He previously worked at Rolling Stone, Salon, Wired Digital, Excite@Home, Mother Jones, and as a co-founder and executive director of the Center for Investigative Reporting.

Over the past 40 years, he and his teams have won dozens of awards, including a National Magazine Award, an IRE Award and a Webby. He has authored or co-authored four books, including (with Mark Schapiro) Circle of Poison.

He has a bachelor's degree in journalism from the University of Michigan, and has taught journalism at the University of California at Berkeley, Stanford and San Francisco State.

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