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Do Americans Really Understand Union Controversy?

This is a RUSH transcript from "The O'Reilly Factor," March 1, 2011. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.

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BILL O'REILLY, HOST: In the "Stossel Matters" segment tonight: Our pal John is closely following the union controversy and last night he took to the streets.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JOHN STOSSEL, FOX BUSINESS ANCHOR: What's going on in Wisconsin? What's the protest about?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I have no idea.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I don't know anything. I don't know specifically about it. I heard that there was a sit-in and a protest based on something.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: They've been talking about at Equity.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes, something about the workers…

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Union.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: …of union -- of union jobs.

STOSSEL: What's going on in Wisconsin?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Wisconsin, I don't know.

STOSSEL: Wisconsin, what's the protest about?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'm not up on Wisconsin at all.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I haven't really been following.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They won the Super Bowl, right? The Green Bay Packers.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O'REILLY: All right. Here now in person, Fox Business anchor John Stossel. Now is that fair though? You can find people who are walking around…

STOSSEL: We found some smart people, but I would say half the people…

O'REILLY: No idea.

STOSSEL: …or had bizarre ideas.

O'REILLY: OK. But you know this is a very complicated issue. It's extremely complicated because there are a lot of different layers to it. Or maybe you…

STOSSEL: It's not that complicated. You watch a few news shows and read a bit and I think you -- a couple of days.

O'REILLY: But people don't understand what collective bargaining is.

STOSELL: That's true.

O'REILLY: And why it's necessary and why it's bankrupting the states. And they don't get it.

STOSSEL: And these polls you've been citing game the language and even you use collective bargaining rights. Why right? I mean, who's to say it's a right? And as you say, the federal workers don't have it. Let's call it collective bargaining power.

O'REILLY: Well, you can -- they have a right to collective bargaining when the legislature votes it in.

STOSSEL: All right.

O'REILLY: That's what it means. It's not a constitutional right.

STOSSEL: But when on a poll you say, do you want to take somebody's anything right…

O'REILLY: Rights away. Right.

STOSSEL: People say no, that's terrible.

O'REILLY: OK, but also there is sympathy among -- and I think much of "The Factor" audience as well and the mail reflects it -- working men and women, OK.

STOSSEL: OK.

O'REILLY: Because -- because there is a lot of suspicion that government is corrupt, fat cat Wall Street people are corrupt but the workers they go to work every day, they just want to have, you know, enough to feed their family and send them to college.

STOSSEL: And there is a lot of truth to that. But the confusion comes in when people think organized labor represents those workers. And they have all these signs saying we represent the middle class, we represent the workers. But they represent what, now 12 percent of the workers?

O'REILLY: But that's still workers. They're still representing workers.

STOSSEL: They are workers. But you got 80 percent of the workers, some of whom are being hurt by the unions because they have to pay more to pay for all these benefits.

O'REILLY: Well, I'll tell you how it's being -- and we have lost a lot of jobs overseas because people in central Mexico, central America, Mexico and China and India work for far less than union labor here, so manufacturing went overseas; all those jobs disappeared.

STOSSEL: But the jobs didn't disappear. Our manufacturing output is up that kind of free-trade action…

O'REILLY: Because -- but we're making this stuff overseas so the people in Wisconsin and Michigan and other Rust Belt states can't have those jobs unless they want to move down to Guatemala.

STOSSEL: But they get new jobs, because that stuff comes back cheaper and that allows for new jobs to be created until this…

O'REILLY: Somewhat.

STOSSEL: Until…

O'REILLY: Somewhat.

STOSSEL: Until this recent recession America has been a jobs creating machine…

O'REILLY: While they were in the -- they were in the public service and the tech sector, manufacturing is shot. And you can make a good claim that the union labor because it's so expensive killed manufacturing in the USA, could you not?

STOSSEL: Yes, you could and also not just the cost but the work rules. I mean, in Wisconsin, if you want to put up a bulletin board in their collective bargaining agreement, they have -- I don't know, like a 70-page rule about how big it has to be and where it has to be…

O'REILLY: Yes, the union rules are stringent. But let's get back to the folks. Are you saying that you believe most Americans are clueless about what this is all about?

STOSSEL: No, I think most Americans have a sense of it. But you know, there is a saying that one percent of the people make things happen, nine percent of the people watch and the other 90 percent wake up one day and say, what happened? So…

O'REILLY: Do you believe that in this case?

STOSSEL: Yes, well, people have lives, they're busy…

O'REILLY: Yes, no, I mean this is a complicated issue. It's not a black and white, you know, we got to get Al Qaeda issue. It's certainly a lot of ins and outs here. But the bottom line is that the states can't pay for the public union benefits. They can't pay for it.

STOSSEL: And I mean, I wish Walker were more consistent in that he's saying you can't have collective bargaining because we can't negotiate, but you can have it for pay, and the cops and the firemen can have it. I think he should be principled and say if collective bargaining is the problem because you are negotiating with the people who you got elected then say elect the federal workers or we're not going to have it at all.

O'REILLY: All right. John Stossel, everybody. Thanks very much.

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