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Poll: Majority backs government workers in unions

By Ed O’Keefe
The Washington Post’s Federal Eye

A new national poll delivers some encouraging news for federal employees and their unions: Most Americans oppose weakening the collective bargaining rights of public employees and oppose cutting their pay or benefits to reduce deficits.

Concerns with public-sector unions and collective bargaining divide along partisan lines, according to the New York Times/CBS News survey. A slight majority of Republicans favor doing away with at least some bargaining rights, while large majorities of Democrats and independents support keeping them.

And notably, a majority of respondents who have no union members living in their households opposed cutting pay and benefits and taking away collective bargaining rights from public-sector workers.

In the last three decades, union membership has dropped sharply across the U.S., but remains higher in the public sector than among private sector workers.

The new polling numbers should boost the spirits of state workers and union leaders fighting budget battles with lawmakers and Republican governors in several Midwestern states, and — if the numbers hold in forthcoming surveys — could help upend attempts to make similar cuts at the federal level.

And as federal employees fret over the diminishing possibility of a government shutdown (at least this week), a new Washington Post-Pew Research Center poll finds Americans divide evenly over who’s to blame if a shutdown occurs.

Thirty-six percent say Republicans would be at fault, while 35 percent say blame would rest with the Obama administration. About one in five say both congressional Republicans and the White House would be at fault. A Gallup poll published last week yielded similar findings.

Any potential disagreements on a new continuing resolution appear to center mostly on its length. Though House Republicans are insisting on a two-week resolution, the White House warned Monday of passing short-term spending measures.

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