The debate over public union pensions, benefits, and influence is gaining more and more attention with the mainstream media and the public at large.

This couldn’t be more evident than the release of a new documentary skewering teachers unions and a skit making fun of the public unions on this past weekend’s Saturday Night Live.

In the SNL satirical skit, Kenan Thompson played the host of the “2010 Public Employee of the Year Awards.” As he tells his audience at the mock award show, “people with government jobs are like workers everywhere except for lifetime job security, guaranteed annual raises, early retirement on generous pensions and full medical coverage with no deductibles and office visit fees or co-payments.”

Have a laugh when you take a look at the skit for yourselves here.

A new documentary on teachers’ unions called “The Cartel” was produced and reported by former Bloomberg television reporter, Bob Bowden. He argues in his 90-minute documentary that the state of the public schools are the greatest threat to the nation and that powerful teachers unions are the cause of failed public education.

As the documentary debuted in Boston this weekend, the Boston Globe reported, “The Cartel” is “a full-frontal assault, almost three years in the making, on the teacher unions and administrators whom Bowdon sees as stubborn stranglers of innovation. In his view, tenure often trumps learning, and the amalgamation of power can be a union’s top priority.”

The documentary focuses on the public school system in New Jersey, which spends more per pupil than any other state.  But the report says the “darts (aimed at public education) are applicable across the country.”

“The Cartel” takes aim at a number of issues, especially teacher tenure. The tenure issue is hot political property right now with Florida Governor Charlie Crist’s recent veto of a bill that would have eliminated tenure and tied teacher pay and jobs to student performance.

The documentary is sure to bring a response from the National Education Association and the California Teachers Association.

For more on “The Cartel,” here is the Boston Globe article on the documentary.