Poll Finds Wisconsin Residents Support Both Unions, Right-To-Work Legislation

RIght-To-Work Opponents Critical Of Wisconsin Policy Research Institute Survey


A new poll finds a majority of Wisconsinites are in favor of labor unions, while also finding strong support for passing a right-to-work law that would make it harder for unions to organize.

The poll of 600 state residents was conducted by the conservative-leaning Wisconsin Policy Research Institute. It found that 58 percent of respondents support unions, while 62 percent — a majority that included many Democrats — favor passing a right-to-work law.

Pollster William Howell said that suggests backers of right-to-work have an advantage if they frame their argument around the freedom to join a union or not.

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“The thing to do is to talk about this particular issue as an issue of worker freedom — the rights of workers to join organizations as they choose,” said Howell.

Howell said for opponents of right-to-work laws, the poll suggests they need to convince people such laws are unfair because they allow nonunion members to enjoy the higher wages a union can bargain for.

Opponents of right-to-work laws, however, are critical of the poll. Former union organizer and University of Wisconsin professor of labor education Frank Emspak said the results say more about the phrase “right to work” than they do about the potential impact of the legislation.

“I think people are not voting or expressing themselves because of economic issues or factual data of one sort or another. I think people are voting on the most visceral sort of thing here — ‘right to work,’” said Emspak.

The poll also found that most respondents don’t think the legislation will have a significant impact on the state’s economy.