Here's Loleen Berdahl and David McGrane on the comparative views of different union roles:
In so far as people perceive unions as narrowly defending the interests of their own members, the public reaction is negative. Indeed, almost three in five (58.1 per cent) respondents feel that unions generally ask for too much. However, the public is more positive regarding the broader role of unions, and a strong majority (64.8 per cent) feels that unions play an important role in promoting better working conditions and wages.
Unions will not find a sympathetic public if they are perceived only to be fighting for more money for their members. To garner public support, the union movement needs to frame its communication around its struggles to improve the lives of all workers, and how they aid the most vulnerable in Saskatchewan.And it surely isn't a coincidence that Wall and his party have tried to stifle the most popular (and arguably the most important) part of the role of Saskatchewan's labour movement.
In fact, those who aren't in the workforce (full-time caregivers, students, retirees and the unemployed) are some of the biggest supporters of unions.
For the most part, the Sask Party hasn't publicly argued that unions should be limited in their role of representing members in dealing with particular employers - even if its specific legislation has been far more extreme than the party's message for public consumption.
But it's been another story when it comes to the role of unions in promoting better working conditions and wages generally. Wall has personally launched broadside attacks against "politically active" unions in general, while his party has tried to silence particular unions who have dared to speak out. And Wall's corporatist cheerleaders have been happy to echo the message that unions should be prevented from doing anything beyond negotiating and enforcing collective bargaining agreements.
Fortunately, the Saskatchewan Election Study polling data offers a strong indication that the general public disagrees with Wall's desire to limit the scope of union activity. And the more the Sask Party tries to crack down on what citizens in general recognize to be an important service, the more likely we'll see the labour movement emerge ahead of Wall's corporate backers in the court of public opinion.