Despite state officials' past certainty, some now unsure who actually 'employs' home health care workers
Part of the original facade of the “Home Health Care Dues Skim” appears to have peeled away.
Michigan Quality Community Care Council, the entity that claimed it was the employer in the 2006 unionization of tens of thousands of alleged home health care workers, now says it is not their employer.
But even with the dummy employer admitting it isn't the home health care workers' employer, the major effect of the forced unionization continues.
Dues are still being taken from the checks of at least 56,422 people who provide medical care for home-bound patients and are being sent to the Service Employees International Union. Some of these people are parents or other relatives taking care of the developmentally disabled. Whether they all fit the description of a "home health care worker” has been questioned by some.
Rep. Paul Opsommer, R-Dewitt, told Michigan Capitol Confidential that his efforts to find out who or what is supposed to be the employer of the so-called home health care workers have been frustrating. Rep. Opsommer says he has gotten contradictory information from multiple sources within state government who can’t seem to agree.
“It is a true mess,” he said. “But I think we are at a point where everyone is starting to agree who isn’t their employer, and that’s the MQC3. That of course means that the initial so-called union election was improperly certified and should be considered null and void. No magic ‘unionization wand’ exists that can change who these people work for.”
Rep. Opsommer is the sponsor of House Bill 4003, which is designed to end the union's dues flow. That bill was passed by the House last June but remains in the Senate while the dues continue to roll into SEIU coffers.
So far, the SEIU has taken more than $28 million from workers, money it can use for political purposes.
“If I were a candidate running for office and found out taxpayer dollars were going to my opponents, without the taxpayers having had any say about it, I'd be furious,” said Macomb County businessman and former state Rep. Dan Acciavatti. “This is appalling on several levels.”
Under law, to become unionized, a group of public employees must have a common employer. In the mid-2000s, roughly 43,000 so-called home health care workers across Michigan were employed by the patients they served or were simply taking care of their children or other relatives. Many of these people considered themselves private contractors — and filed their taxes accordingly.
In 2006, MQC3 certified that it was the employer of these far-flung, somewhat loosely defined individuals. It's believed the purpose behind this was to have dues extracted from taxpayer-provided checks and sent to the SEIU.
Under the administration of Gov. Jennifer Granholm, state bureaucrats accepted MQC3 as the employer. This did not occur at open hearings with news media coverage. An unpublicized election was held by mail, in which more 80 percent of the 43,000 affected didn't vote. As a result these people were considered as unionized.
Because the process was done covertly, with the MQC3 serving as dummy employer and the election being virtually secret, it has been called a “forced unionization.” According to the Department of Community Health, the number of alleged home health care workers currently paying dues to the SEIU is 56,422.
On Jan. 28, 2012, Michigan Capitol Confidential asked Scott Heinzman, chairperson of the MQC3 Board of Directors a few questions pertaining to the so-called home health care workers. Heinzman said he didn't have the information and directed the questions to the DCH.
Michigan Capitol Confidential then asked Heinzman the following questions:
We were under the impression that all of these home health care workers are employed by MQC3. If so, why doesn't MQC3 have the information we've requested? How many home health care workers are employees of MQC3? If some aren't MQC3 employees, who are their employers?
Regarding how many are MQC3 employees, Heinzman's response was: “None.”
This answer appears to contradict what MQC3 claimed in 2006, when it certified that it was the employer of these tens of thousands of the so-called home health care workers. It also would seem to substantiate the claim by the Mackinac Center for Public Policy that MQC3 had been nothing more than a shell employer used to facilitate the unionization.
Heinzman went on to say the so-called home health care workers were co-employees.
“All providers are co-employed by DCH and HHP (home healthcare provider) consumers,” Heinzman said. “DCH sets rate of pay via approval by legislative appropriations and handles all payroll functions. The DHS (Department of Human Services) determines how many hours per month a consumer may receive for each approved activity and works collaboratively with DCH as necessary.
“The consumer hires, directs and discharges providers,” Heinzman continued. “Consumers also verify provider hours worked to the state.”
If this evaluation by Heinzman is accurate, it would appear to be problematic. First, how could MQC3 claim to be the employer back in 2006, but not the employer now? Second, if the so-called home health care workers are co-employed by DCH, that would seem to make them state employees and subject to the civil service. However, MQC3 has insisted all along that these so-called home health care workers are not state employees.
According to Angela Minicuci, spokesperson for DCH, Heinzman was wrong when he said the so-called home health care workers are co-employees of DCH.
“The relationship between the beneficiary and the provider is generally considered an employment relationship," she said Jan. 31. "Home help providers might also be employed by a home help agency. Neither the [M]DCH nor the MQC3 is the employer of home help providers. Instead, the department serves as the reporting agent for the home help beneficiaries.”
How this all relates to collective bargaining has some raising questions.
“The basis of unionization is collective bargaining,” said Macomb County Commissioner Kathy Vosburg. “But these relationships being described are usually one-on-one; with one person being the employer and the other the employee. I don't understand how anybody could say this would have anything to do with collective bargaining or a union.”
It appears that at some point following the forced unionization of workers, MQC3 was returned to its previous purpose, which was to maintain the home help registry. The registry includes 933 home health care workers and is used by roughly 2,800 people looking for home health assistance. Nonetheless, at least 56,422 people are still paying dues to the SEIU.
Rep. Opsommer points out that his legislation wouldn't end MQC3 or its registry, just the illegal unionization.
“Not only should the dues be stopped, all of the providers should be given refunds,” he said. “Those dues are coming directly out of the hands of Alzheimer’s patients and autistic children, and we need to get it back to them.”
Zac Altefogt, spokesman for SEIU Michigan Healthcare, did respond to a request for comment.
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