News Story

Reactions to Forced Unionization

Tea Party groups call practice 'immoral'

Barbara Bol was forced into the Service Employees International Union against her will under the guise that she was a public employee, something she fervently denies. According to Bol, she gets absolutely nothing from being in the union. "Dues," however, are still being deducted from the Medicaid checks taxpayers provide to help Bol and her family. 

“We get absolutely no benefit from the union,” Bol said. “What are they going to do? Negotiate better working conditions in my home? They don't even send me a newsletter. When they held elections within the union, they didn't even send me a ballot.”

Bol, of Grand Rapids, takes care of mentally impaired young adults she adopted several years ago. She gets some home health care assistance, but she remains the primary caregiver in the home. Bol is just the most recent member of the SEIU to claim the union's only interest in her is collecting dues.

Bol offered her comments in the wake of last week's Capitol Confidential article about the ongoing “forced unionization” of home health care workers in Michigan.

Mackinac Center analysts maintain that for the “forced unionization” to take place back in 2005 a sham employer was required. According to the Center, that sham employer was the Michigan Quality Community Care Council. Previous Capitol Confidential articles included emails obtained through the Freedom of Information Act showing that Sen. Roger Kahn, R-Saginaw Twp., managed to keep MQC3 in operation after he failed to get his legislative colleagues to continue funding the program.

It had been widely assumed that once MQC3 was defunded, the flow of union dues would come to an end. But the stream of taxpayer dollars to the union, about $6 million annually, continues.

Sen. Kahn responded to the Capitol Confidential article of Nov. 9 that featured the Haynes family. His response came in an email, almost 48 hours after a request for a comment was submitted by Capitol Confidential to his office by email and more than six hours after the article had been posted.

The following is Kahn's statement:

"The Michigan Quality Community Care Council saves taxpayers millions of dollars each year and helps seniors and people with disabilities remain healthy, independent and in their own homes. It provides in-depth training to home healthcare providers and performs thorough background checks to promote safety, accountability and transparency. That's why I've supported this important program for years and continue to do so. The Mackinac Center's attempt to turn the Michigan Quality Community Care Council into a political football ignores the facts and does a disservice to the taxpayers and the seniors and families served by this important program."

Sen. Kahn full response to Michigan Capitol Confidential's coverage of the MQC3 can be found here.

Thomas Stump of the Saginaw County Tea Party said that when the entire history of the “forced unionization” is brought into focus, it's obvious why it could only be continued under the radar and away from public view.

“There is a reason why Sen. Kahn is doing this behind closed doors,” Stump said. “How does one justify the theft of the subsistence of disabled people and then claim this is for their benefit? From the beginning, this process, if not illegal, was certainly immoral. It involved dubious elections, union dues paid by the disabled, and now this . . . a back-door effort to continue a defunded program.”

Heather McLeod, another Saginaw County Tea Party member, says that when Sen. Kahn acted to keep the “forced unionization” alive, he did so behind the scenes.

“This back-door dealing is not surprising,” McLeod said. “You will not see a billboard sign boldly declaring 'Support Senator Kahn and SEIU. Take money from the elderly and disabled.'

“The only changes MQC3 has provided is more dues for SEIU, more union campaign contributions for Roger Kahn, and less money for the disabled to adequately care for themselves,” McLeod  added. "If I was Roger Kahn, I would probably do this behind closed doors, too.”

Stump said he thinks that Sen. Kahn has changed over the course of his career in the Legislature.

“I think Roger Kahn is a smart, good man, yet he now legislates differently than when he was first elected,” Stump said. “Apparently he has made political alliances with those who do not represent the people’s best interests, although with a great thumping of chest he claims otherwise.”

Bol questions Sen. Kahn's assertion that MQC3 saves taxpayer dollars or provides training for home health care workers.

“How does he figure this saves money?” Bol asked. “I don't see how it does that. All it does is take money from those who can't defend themselves and gives it to the SEIU. And what training is he talking about? They haven't given me any training at all.”

When last week's story about the forced unionization was picked up by the national news media, one SEIU representative claimed the union had gotten more money for the home health care workers. He also claimed that they could leave the union any time they liked.

“Neither of those things are true as far as I can tell,” Bol said. "I found out I could get out of the union, but I'd still have to keep paying most (about 80 percent) of the dues anyway. In other words, the money still ends up going to the union.”

Wendy Day of Common Sense in Government said she was “disheartened” to see Sen. Kahn keeping the “forced unionization” alive.

"It's disheartening to see a Republican tied up with the SEIU,” Day said. “The SEIU is the sister organization to ACORN. It is all about opposing free-market and limited government principles. The spotlight has been on it in recent years and we've seen it basically attacking seniors at health care rallies and acting like thugs in the streets.

“I hope Sen. Kahn is held accountable by the voters, his colleagues in the Legislature and the Republican Party,” Day continued. “His actions on this issue are in direct opposition to everything the Republican Party is supposed to stand for.”

Jason Gillman, a Grand Traverse County commissioner and an independent tea party member, suggested that Sen. Kahn would be a good recall target.

“Senator Kahn is apparently doing the bidding of those who have provided him with finances for his campaigns,” Gillman said. “I don't know how he can even attempt to justify keeping this thing going. It's stealing from those who have real needs and turning the money over to a union.

“As far as I'm concerned, this program was the result of a criminal endeavor,” Gillman continued. “It was a fraud perpetrated under the previous administration. Now we see Sen. Kahn keeping it alive. I think he should be one of three lawmakers the Tea Party targets for recall.”

Tina Dupont of the West Michigan Tea Party questioned Sen. Kahn's motives.

“I think that for Sen. Kahn to do this is despicable,” DuPont said. “He's apparently not thinking about what's best for the people, he's thinking about his own self interest. He talks about the workers receiving training. The taxpayers are paying for that, not the union. It's wrong for any of that money to be used to pad the war chests of either him or of a union.”

Zac Altefogt, spokesman for SEIU Healthcare Michigan, was contacted for comment on this article. He had not responded as of this posting.

Sen. Kahn did not respond to a request for comment about the Tea Party reaction to this issue by the time this article was posted.

Michigan Capitol Confidential is the news source produced by the Mackinac Center for Public Policy. Michigan Capitol Confidential reports with a free-market news perspective.