A news service for the people of Michigan from the Mackinac Center for Public Policy

With boxes of signatures submitted to the Secretary of State over the last few days, it appears there could be as many as seven different proposals on the ballot this fall. Many of them would benefit narrow constituencies at the expense of taxpayers; perhaps the most egregious is a self-serving measure that would embed a one-sided government union scheme into the state constitution.

The arrangement came about when the Service Employees International Union and the Granholm administration created a shell "employer" for tens of thousands of home-based caregivers. Most are family members caring for developmentally disabled loved ones who receive a Medicaid stipend. By labeling caregivers as "government employees" and skimming off a portion of these payments as "dues," the SEIU has quietly taken more than $30 million from Michigan’s most vulnerable residents.

The so-called state government employer of these 60,000 caregivers is the Michigan Quality Community Care Council. This entity may be without precedent. It no longer receives state funds, it cannot give its "employees" benefits or a raise, it operates out of the director’s basement and the director collects unemployment benefits. Odder still, the employer is partially funded by the government union that it supposedly bargains against. The SEIU appears willing to prop up the MQCCC to keep the lucrative arrangement alive.

Lawmakers thought they had put an end to this with a law that clearly states the caregivers are not government workers. But the SEIU filed suit in federal court, asking a judge to keep the money flowing. The union’s argument? The attorney told the judge that as a "First Amendment advocacy organization" the union needs the funds for the upcoming election.

This candor in the courtroom is not matched by the SEIU and MQCCC arguments made in public. The rationale they offer for amending the constitution is that they provide a registry for patients seeking qualified caregivers. Of course, the Michigan Department of Community Health could easily maintain such a registry without MQCCC or SEIU involvement. As it is, the seven-year-old registry contains a paltry 933 names — out of 61,000 providers.

The federal judge ruled that the skim could continue because the MQCCC and SEIU have an existing contract. Technically, that’s true. Since the employer in this case exists only to do the union’s bidding, the parties theoretically can "negotiate" a new contract at any time and for any period, extending the money grab indefinitely. It’s plausible that we now have a government entity that can never be eliminated.

So, families saving for a new wheelchair or a computer that allows their loved one to communicate through eye movements will have to save a little longer. The SEIU needs its cut. Perhaps the most remarkable aspect of this cynical fleecing is that parties actively raiding taxpayer-funded safety net payments are willing to represent themselves as "Citizens for Affordable Quality Home Care."

Northern Michigan University economist Hugo Eyzaguirre discusses how raising the minimum wage will hurt emerging local economies. See more at "Raising the Minimum Wage, Lowering Opportunity."


Most Popular