Poll: Sixty percent oppose weakening collective bargaining

A majority of Americans said in a new poll Tuesday that they oppose one of the main components of Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker's (R) labor reform plan.

Sixty percent of U.S. adults said they somewhat or strongly oppose taking away the collective bargaining rights of public employee unions, as Walker has demanded as part of a budget-reduction plan in Wisconsin.

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Thirty-three percent of Americans, by contrast, somewhat or strongly favor the reform sought by Walker and some other Republican governors, according to a New York Times/CBS News poll. Seven percent did not express an opinion.

The poll suggests that the tide of public opinion has maybe turned against Walker, who's been locked in a nearly two week struggle with Democrats in his state Senate over a plan to eliminate most bargaining rights and increase contributions by public employees to their pension and benefit programs.

Walker's proposal has sparked weeks of major demonstrations in Madison, the state capital, as the Senate Democrats traveled out of state in order to prevent a vote on the measure. Walker has said that he would be forced to make major layoffs if an agreement can't be struck, though there's no sign of a deal in sight.

Pro-labor forces are hoping that public opinion will force Republicans to back down from their position. But a number of national GOP leaders have said they support Walker, and the Republican Governors Association (RGA) will launch advertisements in Wisconsin to bolster Walker.

A majority of poll respondents also expressed opposition to reducing the pay or benefits of public workers to bridge state budget deficits. Fifty-six percent somewhat or strongly opposed such a plan, while 37 percent said they would favor such a move.

The poll, conducted Feb. 24-27, has a three percent margin of error.