The "Protect Working Families" website promoting Proposal 2, lists 598 small businesses as “Main Street” supporters. That is three-tenths of a percent of Michigan businesses, but even at that, getting those businesses as supporters was a stretch.
Proponents of changing the state constitution to enshrine collective bargaining and override state laws have repeatedly claimed that its group is supported by "1,000 small businesses."
Democrat former state and U.S. representative Mark Schauer said on the Craig Fahle Show on WDET that "about 1,000 small businesses" including his wife's business supports Proposal 2. The Proposal 2 supporter's website lists less than 600 and many of those repudiate the fact that they are listed as supporters.
For example, Kilwins, a speciality candy store, was listed as a supporter and had their logo put on the top of the website.
"What's the address that they got that on?" asked Don McCarty, president of Kilwins Candy Stores. "Because that's absolutely not our position."
A check of other businesses found that many had no public presence on the Internet or in web business data bases. One went out of business last year. Several were linked to activist websites, while some had no idea their business was listed on a Proposal 2 website at all. And some businesses that actively support collective bargaining in the state constitution did not want a union in their shop.
The Mackinac Center for Public Policy, with help from the Franklin Center for Government and Public Integrity, visited a number of businesses on the "Main Street" list over the last couple of weeks. Nearly half were located in Macomb County on only a handful of streets.
"One of the things I could tell just by walking that block was that the Proposal 2 supporter who walked that block went door-to-door-to-door,” said Benjamin Yount of the Franklin Center.
Several business owners who remember signing a document about the election had little knowledge of Proposal 2. When told what Proposal 2 did, one business owner said she changed her mind. Other business owners didn't realize their business would end up on a Proposal 2 supporter website, while others agreed to sign the paper and put a Proposal 2 sticker in their window to support their union customer base.
"A sticker ended up in my window because they came door-to-door to businesses ... and they want you to support the union and everything like that," said tattoo artist Alvin Cardin. "Some things I support on the union, a lot of things nowadays I don't."
"The union has gotten out of control and it has cost a lot of people businesses. It has cost a lot of people jobs. It's going to hurt the economy in some ways."
Staffers at the "Protect Working Families" headquarters in Detroit said they were too busy to talk about the recruitment process when a reporter visited the headquarters. Calls to the office have been not been returned.