OKLAHOMA CITY – Jennifer Parrish has a hard time believing she is still fighting efforts that would force her to become part of a union simply because she operates a home-based child care center.
It's been seven years since a man knocked on her door, barged in and harassed her to sign a petition that ultimately would unionize people taking care of kids. He argued with her — in her own home — and wouldn't leave until she promised to take a look at the petition and sign it for him to pick up later.
Only when she read the fine print, she realized he was working for a union.
"I couldn't believe it," she told me on the sidelines of the State Policy Network convention last month after winning the Unsung Hero Award for her efforts against the forced unionization. "It doesn't seem possible that they could do this, that they could force people to be in a union, but they're still trying."
Parrish has fought efforts from the Service Employees International Union, which took more than $34 million from home-based caregivers here in Michigan before that scheme officially ended this year, and the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, to unionize child care workers in Minnesota.
With the help of Democrats all the way to the Minnesota governor's office, unions still are trying to take money from Parrish and thousands of others. If successful, child care providers will be forced to give at least $300 a year in dues or fees, but they won't get health insurance in return.
But that's not stopping Parrish. She purposely uses the term "skim" when she talks about that money being taken from the children. It will be deducted from the checks the providers get from the state for taking care of kids whose families qualify for state aid.
"The 'Skim Tracker" in Michigan was a great visual tool that helped boost awareness and really got people fired up," she said of the scrolling money calculator posted on the Michigan Capitol Confidential website that tallied the money the SEIU took from home-based caregivers during the seven years the scheme was active here.
She's now hoping to get "skim trackers" scrolling in Minnesota, Rhode Island, Connecticut and other states where similar schemes are taking place. Parrish estimates that unions across the nation have easily taken more than $190 million from people taking care of children, the elderly and the sick. But she's hoping — and working tirelessly — to prevent that from continuing.
Parrish, like Patricia and Robert Haynes, who won the Mackinac Center for Public Policy’s Lives, Fortunes and Sacred Honor Award Monday and join previous winners of that award, Sherri Loar, Paulette Silverson, and Michelle Berry, not only deserve the honors they receive, but also the freedom from being forced into a union.
(Editor's note: This column has been slightly edited since its original posting.)