Senate committee approves House Bill 4003
Private individuals who receive a portion of their compensation from direct or indirect government subsidies are closer to being protected from forced unionization schemes. House Bill 4003 was approved by the Senate Reforms, Restructuring and Reinventing Committee on a 5-2 vote Wednesday morning.
The bill was introduced by Rep. Paul Opsommer, R-DeWitt, in response to two highly questionable decisions made during the Granholm administration that placed tens of thousands of home-based day care operators and private home health aides into government unions.
The committee is chaired by Sen. Mark Jansen, R-Grand Rapids, who introduced similar legislation earlier this year (Senate Bill 11) and during the 2009-2010 term (Senate Bill 1178). Aside from Jansen, also voting in favor of the bill were Sens. Patrick Colbeck, R-Canton Township, Tom Casperson, R-Escanaba, Mike Kowall, R-White Lake, and Dave Robertson, R-Grand Ledge. Sens. Coleman Young II, D-Detroit, and Rebekah Warren, D-Ann Arbor, voted against the bill.
“Small business who contract with the state need to have assurance that dubious interlocal agreements that they have no control over can’t suck some of their hard earned dollars away because of improper union classification,” Rep. Opsommer said in a statement on his website.
“The main question is whether or not these people are public employees,” Patrick Wright, director of the Mackinac Center Legal Foundation, said during testimony during the committee hearing.
Wright said there were “intentional actions” that led to the stealth unionizations and the transfer of millions of dollars in “dues” to various unions.
The first such stealth unionization occurred when the Michigan Department of Human Services signed an interlocal agreement with Mott Community College creating a shell corporation known as the Michigan Home Based Child Care Council. A newly formed group called Child Care Providers Together Michigan, an entity created by the UAW and AFSCME, was then able to “organize” against the MHBCCC. Home-based day care providers who watch the children of low-income parents receive subsidy checks from the state, and 1.15 percent in “dues” was then extracted from those checks and sent to the unions.
That scheme ended in March when Gov. Rick Snyder signed an executive order directing the DHS to stop withholding the dues following an 18-month legal battle led by Wright and the MCLF. Wright said the matter would still need legislative attention, however, to make sure others weren’t similarly affected.
“Only the Legislature has the power to declare someone a public-sector employee,” Wright said.
If HB 4003 passes the full Senate and is signed into law by Gov. Snyder, thousands of private home health aides would be freed from a similar scheme in which “dues” are taken from their subsidy checks and sent to the SEIU. Under that scenario, the Michigan Quality Community Care Council was formed by an interlocal agreement between the Michigan Department of Community Health and the Tri-County Aging Consortium. The MQC3, however, was defunded in the state’s 2012 fiscal year budget, but has somehow continued to operate.
Wright said HB 4003 contains language that makes it “curative and retroactive.”
“It makes it inherently clear these people are not public employees,” Wright said. “If signed by the governor, the dues payments should stop immediately.”