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

Connecticut Now Struggling With Caregiver Unionization Efforts

SEIU loss in Michigan not stopping the union

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Michigan’s home-based caregiver dues skim should be on its last legs with the rejection of Proposal 4, but a similar forced unionization plan exists in Connecticut.

Michigan Proposal 4, which would have locked a scheme orchestrated by the Service Employees International Union when Jennifer Granholm was governor, was rejected 56 percent to 44 percent on Election Day.

This comes seven years after the SEIU used a mail-in election to forcibly unionize Michigan home-based caregivers.. As a result of that scheme, the SEIU has taken nearly $33 million from dues taken out of Michigan caregivers’ Medicaid checks.

The SEIU convinced home-based caregivers in Connecticut to unionize, but there are serious questions about the details of the plan.

One significant difference in Connecticut is that The Arc Connecticut opposes the unionization. The Arc, which has branches in various states, advocates on behalf of those with intellectual and developmental disabilities.

The Arc Michigan actively supported the forced unionization of home-based caregivers in the Great Lakes State. It gave $50,000 to the dummy employer that was used in the scheme. Its executive director, Dohn Hoyle, was the head of the unsuccessful Proposal 4 campaign.

"Our concerns only involve the people we represent,” Leslie Simoes, executive director of The Arc Connecticut, told Capitol Confidential. “We represent those in the intellectual and developmental disability community. We don't represent everyone who would be affected by what is being planned.

“We do not oppose the unionization. People have the right to unionize. But our concern about this is the potential impact on the individual budgets of the folks we represent. If the unionization causes pay increases, that would affect their individual budgets, which could result in them having less hours and less resources." Simoes said.

Connecticut's situation is not a quietly orchestred forced unionization scheme like what happened here. What’s happening in Connecticut is taking place in public, with hearings and news coverage. In Michigan, the SEIU’s scheme took place covertly, without the public — and without most caregivers — knowing about it.

In September 2011, Connecticut Gov. Daniel P. Malloy signed two executive orders drafted to open the door to the unionization of the state's child care workers and home-based caregivers. In Connecticut the caregivers are called “personal care attendants.”

Gov. Malloy had been backed heavily by the SEIU in his 2010 campaign.

"The executive order gave the union access to the workers," Simoes said. "In the (unionization) election there was overwhelming support for the union. They voted for it despite very strong organized opposition against it."

Simoes said she was not sure what entity is supposed to be the employer of the caregivers under the unionization plan in Connecticut. That issue appears to be a major stumbling block to getting the union operational.

She said the state would not be the employer, but the state, in essence, would be the only entity that could raise pay or provide benefits. In Michigan, Gov. Rick Snyder signed a law earlier this year declaring that home-based caregivers are not state employees and therefore not eligible for unionization.

"We know they (the caregivers) are not going to be able to get anything involving working conditions," Simoes said. "Considering what these folks do, working conditions don't apply to their situation. It (the union’s collective bargaining) might be about wages and benefits.

“But then . . . how would they be able to do benefits, if you only work 10 hours per week, and also work at Wal-Mart?” Simoes said. "A lot of these folks only need minimal support. How do you get benefits for doing things like driving your father twice a day? How do you negotiate for benefits with your aunt?”

In Michigan, the obstacle of defining what would be the employer was sidestepped by creating a dummy employer, the Michigan Quality Community Care Council.

"Sounds like what happened in Michigan was even worse than what's happening here," Simoes said. "Ours is at least a little more transparent. But many advocates are very vocal in their criticism of what's happening here in Connecticut."

Simoes said that the state of Connecticut seems to be struggling to figure out how the set-up would be run. It is already months behind deadlines that had been set for putting the system into operation.

"I think when the union did this they really missed the boat," Simoes said. "...This (unionization efforts) is happening all over the country. It's different in different states. The unions are looking for new pools of workers."

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See also:

Michigan Capitol Confidential Coverage of the SEIU Dues Skim

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Star International Academy is the highest ranked high school in Michigan on the Mackinac Center for Public Policy's Contest and Performance report card for both 2014 and 2012. The study and a database of every school in the state can be found at www.Mackinac.org/CAP.

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