'They don’t receive sick time. They don’t get vacation time. They can’t file a grievance'
DETROIT — Some members of the Service Employees International Union, which is trying keep its seven-year forced unionization alive with Proposal 4, don't like what their union has been up to.
In fact, said Luvanda Linebarger, a union steward at Detroit Medical Center, home-based caregivers don't belong in the union.
"Is home care needed? Yes it is needed," Linebarger said. "Should they belong to a union? This union? No. They don't benefit."
Linebarger also said that most of the home-based caregivers don't even know they're in the union. She then described the reactions she's seen when they find out.
"They were like, 'I'm not in a union.' And I said, 'Yes you belong to the SEIU,' " Linebarger said. "They were surprised, (and ask) 'Why am I in a union? What am I benefiting from being in the union?' Like I said, they don't receive sick time. They don’t get vacation time. They can't file a grievance."
Linebarger and two other union stewards, Tyrone Freeman and Clara Leavell, were at the SEIU Healthcare Michigan headquarters Tuesday demonstrating against the union's current leadership — particularly its president, Marge Faville. The three stewards are among the minority (about 10,000) of SEIU Healthcare Michigan members who were legitimately unionized and work at health care facilities and have real employers.
In contrast, the majority (more that 44,000) of those paying dues to the union are home-based caregivers who take care of their family or friends in their own homes. They are in Michigan's Home Help Program and the SEIU has taken more than $32 million from them since the forced unionization was orchestrated in 2005. The scheme was outlawed this year, but the union affiliate, SEIU Healthcare Michigan, is using Proposal 4 to try to keep the dues flowing by locking the scheme into the state constitution.
In a news advisory issued by the protesters, they said Tuesday's demonstration was to "bring attention to this issue and to encourage home care workers not to allow themselves or their clients to be taken advantage of any longer by a union that is not representing their best interest and has no one on staff to address their needs.”
The SEIU takes money from the medicaid checks of the elderly and disabled in Michigan and offers them nothing in return.
"Of course they'd want to be in a union if they got benefits from it like we do," Freeman said. "But they don't."
Among the reasons for the demonstration was Faville's apparent attempt to use the home-based caregivers to get the union's bylaws changed to her advantage for an upcoming union leadership election. This has resulted in a lawsuit filed by the non-homebased caregiver union members.
Linebarger said Faville wants to use mail-in voting, which is harder to control and verify. The forced unionization of home-based caregivers in 2005 was Michigan's first by-mail employment relations vote. More than 80 percent of the people who the union said were mailed ballots didn't vote.
"Her (Faville's) staff should not be allowed to be anywhere near those votes," Linebarger said. "How do we know what they're doing? Their list of members includes people who aren't even in the union anymore."
SEIU Healthcare Michigan spokesman Zac Altefogt did not return a request for comment.
Those demonstrating on Tuesday were on a committee of SEIU Healthcare Michigan members that claims "widespread discrimination" is taking place under Faville. While the protest was sparsely attended, those who did show up said they believed other union members were afraid of repercussions.
According to the news release, after receiving the formal complaint, Faville promoted two African American women to mid-level management positions.
"It's too little, too late," Freeman said. "This is our union too; we should have been treated equally from day one."
Freemen said he isn't giving up on the union, but he will if its leadership doesn't change. In addition, he said he's disappointed that the international union isn't taking action to see to it that things are run differently.
"We talked with them a long time," Freeman said. "They already knew about 85 to 90 percent of what was going on."
Linebarger said many of the union's members would like to see the union decertified, so they don't have to put up with what's going on.
"I think most would be willing to decertify at DMC," Linebarger said. "We believe what the union has been doing is unfair."