Unions took $4 million from Michigan daycare workers; class action lawsuit now possible
Michigan daycare operators who had millions of dollars taken from them in a unionization scheme that has since been outlawed, may get some of their money back.
On June 30, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled 5-4 in Harris v. Quinn that people who take care of others and are paid with funds that partially come from the state cannot be unionized because they are not state workers. It also opened the door for Michigan daycare workers involved in a previous, separate scheme to revisit a class action lawsuit to get money back that was taken by the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees union and the UAW.
"Along with its ruling in Harris v. Quinn the Supreme Court has told the 6th District U.S. Court of Appeals to reconsider the Schlaud case," said William L. Messenger, lead attorney in the Harris v. Quinn case for the National Right to Work Legal Foundation. "That was the case involving Michigan child care providers. The court had denied them certification for a class action suit. Now, in light of the Harris v. Quinn decision, it has to revisit that ruling."
Carrie Schlaud, who operates a child care center in North Branch, is the chief plaintiff in the case. She, along with other Michigan child care providers had dues and fees deducted from the checks they received on behalf of customers who were on assistance. The dues and fees were then sent to the AFSCME.
"What we're hoping is that justice will be done," said Patrick Wright, vice president of legal affairs at the Mackinac Center for Public Policy. "That would include the child care providers getting all of their dues money back."
Michigan's "daycare dues skim" lasted a shorter time than the home-based caregiver scheme in the state, and roughly $4 million was taken by the union. By contrast, the Service Employees International Union took more than $34 million from the elderly and disabled in Michigan before that scheme was outlawed last year.
In Michigan's daycare forced unionization, the dummy employer was called the Home Based Child Care Council and the by-mail election took place in 2006. It was the second by-mail unionization election in Michigan history. The one involving home-based caregivers in 2005 was the first.
Messenger said that it took AFSCME longer to put its scheme in place than it took the SEIU with the home-based caregivers. The daycare dues skim started in 2009 and was ended by Gov. Rick Snyder in early 2011. The unions arranged for dues to be taken from the checks of 34,084 daycare providers in 2009 and 32,272 in 2010.
It is up to the court to decide what the next step is for daycare workers and the possible return of money, Messenger said.