Three weeks after hundreds of union employees packed Pennsylvania's Capitol to protest paycheck legislation, a new poll suggests plenty of people within organized labor have a different opinion.
Susquehanna Polling and Research polled 401 registered and likely voters from union households across Pennsylvania and found 72 percent of respondents believe unions should collect their own dues; 58 percent supported paycheck protection legislation that would mandate such a procedure.
The survey found 80 percent of respondents don't think taxpayer resources should be used to collect campaign contributions, bolstering a central argument among supporters of legislation saying government shouldn't collect union dues, which can be used for political purposes.
"This survey would definitely seem to indicate that even the union members themselves understand that there should be a clear separation among the two," said state Rep. Bryan Cutler, R-Lancaster, the sponsor of paycheck protection legislation in the state House.
The Commonwealth Foundation - a right-leaning, free-market think tank - touted the poll as evidence of a disconnect between rank-and-file union workers and their leaders, who have vehemently opposed the legislation.
"These survey results demonstrate union members themselves don't want to be a part of the misuse of taxpayer resources," Matthew Brouillette, president and CEO of the Commonwealth Foundation, said in a news release.
The survey's findings came three weeks after hundreds of union workers rallied against the legislation, which they alleged is simply a union-busting scheme spear-headed by deep-pocketed conservative outsides. David Fillman, executive director of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees Council 13, called the survey "tilted" and a "set-up."
Fillman took issue with a survey question that asked, "When it comes to the proper use of public funds, should taxpayer resources be used to collect money that can be then used to make campaign contributions to support candidates for public office?"
Even supporters of the legislation have acknowledged there's little related to the deductions, Fillman said.
"There's no groundswell from taxpayers or even my own members that this is so obscene that we have to stop this practice," Fillman said. "It's a non-issue. It's a non-problem that's trying to look for a solution."
Cutler has said it's less a question of cost and more an issue of good government practices, as several lawmakers went to prison for mixing politics with taxpayer resources.
Susquehanna Polling and Research conducted the survey from Feb. 6 through Feb. 9, polling households that included a current, former or retired member of a union. Fifty percent of those polled identified themselves as Democrats, 36 percent as Republicans and 9 percent as Independents or other.
Commissioned by Red Maverick Media, a political consulting firm with an office in Harrisburg, the survey has a 4.88 percent margin of error.