Two Michigan Senate committees on April 20 addressed the growing controversy of the stealth unionization of the state's home day care owners and providers, as well as the mechanism by which it happened. One committee took the legislative route, and the other asked probing questions of a Department of Human Services representative.
On a 2 to 1 vote, the Senate Committee on Families and Human Services approved Senate Bills 1173 and 1179 to effectively see to it that private-sector business owners cannot be categorized as government employees and unionized. These measures now head to the full Senate for consideration.
In the meantime, the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Human Services took no legislative action. The committee instead focused its discussion on the Michigan Home Based Child Care Council (MHBCCC). The council is the state entity which acts as the "employer" in the unionization of Michigan's 40,000-plus home-based day care providers the union Child Care Providers-Together Michigan (CCPTM). Union dues come from a portion of state subsidy payments made to day care providers on behalf of low-income parents. The MHBCCC has come under intense scrutiny since last fall, when the Mackinac Center Legal Foundation filed a lawsuit on behalf of three day care owners who do not wish to continue having dues diverted from their subsidy payments to a union. Even if these providers choose to decline union membership, they would still have "service fees" withheld.
Even though the MHBCCC was listed on the official meeting agenda, no representative from the council showed up. This latest no-show is at least the third legislative hearing at which the Michigan Home Based Child Care Council was a main topic of discussion but failed to appear, even after legislators last fall attempted to strip state funding for the council.
It turns out that Lisa Brewer-Walraven, director of early childhood education and care at the Department of Human Services, who was already on-hand to talk about other DHS business, is an MHBCCC board member. Committee Chairperson Bill Hardiman, R-Kentwood, took the opportunity to question Brewer-Walraven about her knowledge of the MHBCCC, its purported benefit to the state's day care owners and providers, and its creation through an interlocal agreement between the DHS and Mott Community College.
At first, Brewer-Walraven seemed reluctant to answer Hardiman's question about who initiated the process of forming the interlocal agreement. She replied, "It was initiated, again, because of the number of home-based child care providers that we have in Michigan and wanting to continue to bring efforts to improve the quality of care provided." (See video below.)
Hardiman continued to press Brewer-Walraven who finally nodded her head to his question, "So DHS approached Mott Community College because of their long-standing reputation of providing training for child care?"
After the hearing, Brewer-Walraven confirmed her answer to the Mackinac Center, stating that the DHS did approach Mott Community College about the formation of the interlocal agreement that created the MHBCCC. She would not go into further detail, however, citing the Center's pending lawsuit against the DHS, which is now before the Michigan Supreme Court.