For the majority of Michigan's home-based care-givers, the Medicaid checks they receive in March are expected to be the last ones from which union dues will be deducted.
Based on statements by high ranking officials of the Michigan Department of Community Health (MDCH) the end of the forced unionization of workers orchestrated in 2005 by the Service Employees International Union when Jennifer Granholm was governor, seems imminent.
In 2006, union dues started being taken from the Medicaid checks of the caregivers and sent to the union. To date, the SEIU has taken more than $34 million from the elderly and disabled in Michigan.
"We want to bring about an end to the dues,” MDCH Director Jim Haveman said. "I think that after the February checks (which are sent out in March), you'll see a very big fall-off."
These remarks were made by Haveman Thursday, following the Michigan Quality Community Care Council's January board meeting. The MQC3 is the agency that was established to help facilitate the dues skim. Gov. Rick Snyder last year appointed new board members who were not beholden to the SEIU.
Haveman pointed out that at the December MQC3 meeting the MQC3 board announced that the contract with SEIU Healthcare Michigan (the union affiliate involved) would end as of Feb. 28, and that MQC3 would cease to exist in April.
Following the actions taken at the December meeting, one of the remaining loose ends appears to be a related lawsuit, which is currently before the U.S. 6th Circuit Court. An update of the settlement negotiations on that lawsuit, was provided at Thursday’s meeting by Kurt E. Krause, director of the MDCH Bureau of Legal Affairs.
"I've recently received an email from the Attorney General's office," Krause said. "The only questions the SEIU attorneys have brought up involve payment of services through February 28 [and some other technical issues]."
The Mackinac Center Legal Foundation also has asked the Michigan Employment Relations Commission to award $3 million back to workers who have had their money taken as dues. The Legal Foundation says the SEIU engaged in unfair labor practices. MERC has not yet reached a decision on that case.
At the MDCH meeting Thursday, it was established that the February checks would be going out sometime around March 4.
"The legal prospects seem pretty clear," Krause said."“So now it looks like it's really down to the mechanics of doing it."
Based on the board discussion, that could include some payments that are behind, which might involve a trickle of future checks that could still have dues deductions.
Following the meeting, Krause said the situation wouldn't be completely over until the case in the U.S. 6th Circuit Court is resolved. However, he added that, with the contract ending and MQC3 folding, he said he couldn't see what grounds the union would have to press for continuation of the dues deductions.
Haveman said he considered Gov. Snyder getting rid of the old MQC3 board as the key to putting an end to the dues deductions.
"I think they (SEIU) saw the handwriting on the wall after the governor replaced the board," Haveman said.
Gov. Snyder announced the changes the week before the Nov. 6 general election.
By replacing the MQC3 board Gov. Snyder basically used the union's own apparatus to undo the unionization.
Replacing the MQC3 board was the third attempt to end the dues flow.
In 2011, the state legislature tried to end the forced unionization by de-funding the MQC3. That attempt failed when the SEIU gave the MQC3 money so it could survive. Then, in the spring of 2012, the legislature passed, and Gov. Snyder signed, a bill to outlaw the forced unionization. That attempt initially failed when SEIU took its case to court and won. The appeal of that ruling seems to be the only unresolved element of the situation.
The newly-comprised MQC3 board declared there would be no contract extensions, and that it would dissolve the MQC3.
Nonetheless, the SEIU bankrolled Proposal 4 in November, which would have locked the forced unionization into the state constitution. However, voters saw through the union's attempt to guarantee itself special privileges and they overwhelmingly defeated Proposal 4.
In its final weeks of the MQC3's existence, MDCH officials are working on a plan to put a home help worker registry under the auspices of a different program. Part of the plan includes expanding the registry beyond the parameters of those needing home care.
Former House Appropriations Committee Chair Terry Geiger is heading the project.
At the meeting, Geiger and Haveman sought information from MQC3 employees who have been involved with the registry. They established that the most current count of those subject to the forced unionization was more than 59,000. Meanwhile, the number of names in the registry, which hasn't been promoted in recent weeks, has fallen to 379 (from only 933 when the union was claiming a registry was a primary reason to change the state constitution).
At the meeting, according to the MQC3, 63 percent of those in the Home Help Program are being cared for by relatives or other loved ones. That helps explain why there has been comparatively little demand for the registry.
Geiger said he thinks responsibility for the registry can change hands without requiring the addition of any new employees.