A tough Labor Day for labor

September 7, 2009 1:33:25 PM PDT
Unemployment is climbing near double digit percentages, and now a new Gallup poll shows that public opinions of labor unions is at an all time low.

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Thousands of people from Teamsters to laborers took to the streets of Philadelphia as part of the Labor Day parade Monday morning.

It's a complex time for city unions who are in themidst of a battle for a new contract with Philadelphia, and in a political battle with Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter over critical legislation in Harrisburg. For his part, Nutter was willing to overlook the disputes and celebrate Labor Day.

"Today is Labor Day. I'm very appreciative of the great work men and women all across Philadelphia, the region, the state and the country have done," Nutter said. "They've made this country a better place."

But unions in 2009 apparently have a perception problem with the rest of America.

According to a recent Gallup poll, a record number of Americans -- 51% -- now think unions mostly hurt, rather than help, the economy.

The man who heads the region AFL-CIO told Action News he was surprised by the negative assessment. In part he attributes it to a business-financed anti-union effort to stop pro-union legislation and healthcare reform.

"They've done a great job scaring people about healthcare, because labor is on the side of public healthcare and the folks are scared to death," said Pat Eiding, President of the Philadelphia AFL-CIO. "They're only hearing the negative side. There's a great anti-labor marketing going on that we've got to find a way to overcome."

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