SACRAMENTO (AP) — Another attempt by conservatives and corporate interests to limit labor unions' ability to collect dues for political purposes is being viewed skeptically by California voters, according to a poll released Friday.
The Field Poll found that just 38 percent of likely voters support Proposition 32 on the Nov. 6 ballot while 44 percent intend to vote against it. A significant portion, 18 percent, remains undecided.
The initiative would prohibit corporations and unions from collecting money for political contributions from employees and union members through payroll deduction. Yet it would not impede the ability of corporations and wealthy individuals to spend unlimited amounts on political campaigns through independent expenditure committees.
Supporters have contributed $8.8 million so far, with the most of the money from the American Future Fund, an Iowa-based organization with ties to oil interests and billionaires Charles and David Koch. The brothers fund a variety of conservative causes, including lobbying for fewer government regulations, and have promoted the tea party movement through their group Americans for Prosperity.
Opponents have contributed $37.6 million, with most of that coming from the California Teachers Association. They say the initiative has no practical impact on corporations because businesses don't often collect political money from employees. So, if it's approved, the political playing field would tilt heavily in favor of corporate interests.
California voters rejected similar efforts, which supporters refer to as "paycheck protection," in 2005 and 1998.
On another union-related question, the Field Poll found voters had mixed feelings about the law pushed by Gov. Jerry Brown this year to change pension benefits for California's state and local government workers.
The changes are expected to help public pension systems save billions of dollars in the future. The state's two main systems currently face $165 billion in unfunded liabilities.
The savings mostly will come through reduced retirement benefits for employees hired in the future.
While 18 percent of voters believe the changes went too far, 39 percent say they were about right and 26 percent say they did not go far enough. Another 17 percent had no opinion.
Field and the Institute of Governmental Studies at the University of California, Berkeley jointly interviewed 1,183 registered California voters by telephone from Sept. 6-18. The poll has a sampling error margin of plus or minus 3.4 percentage points for the 902 likely voters surveyed.