News Story

Home Health Care 'Dues Skim' Worse Than Previously Thought

'This is Crony Unionism'

Far more home healthcare providers were ensnared in Michigan's forced unionization of 2006 than previously believed, according to figures provided by the Department of Human Services.

There are 60,190, which is more than 25 percent higher than the 43,000 reported up to now.

It's probable that more than 80 percent of these workers were forced into the Service Employees International Union through a "scam" perpetrated while Gov. Jennifer Granholm was in office. 

Not only are the numbers involved greater than previously believed, the definition of a home health care worker is also murky. Assumptions that they are medical professionals providing care for multiple home-bound patients are inaccurate, based upon the DHS statistics, which show that more than 56,000 of the home health care workers subjected to the forced unionization don't fit that description. Of the 60,190 individual providers, only 3,844 work for more than one client/patient.

The much repeated 43,000 figure came from the number of ballots sent out in the unpublicized 2006 unionization election. That under the radar election netted the so-called home health care workers into the SEIU. With the news media, the Legislature and the public kept in the dark about what was happening, more than 80 percent of those eligible to vote never sent in their ballots.

The SEIU “take” so far is more than $28,089,803 from the Home Healthcare Dues Skim, and the tally is climbing. Those dollars can be used for anything the SEIU desires, including politics.

“I find it outrageous that the recently outlawed abuse of home-based day care workers continues to be practiced against single-patient home health care providers,” said Saginaw Tea Party participant Sandra Kahn. “This artificially created union membership did not get come about because of worker initiative; it came about through behind the scenes collaboration between the SEIU and the state of Michigan.

“Michigan legislators should put an end to robbing home health care providers in order to keep SEIU coffers filled,” she continued. “This is not crony capitalism. It is crony unionism. We know we have gone too far in this state when workers need to seek protection from unions.”

Jim Chiodo, a member of the Ottawa County Tea Party, said he was shocked when he found out about the details of the Home Healthcare Dues Skim.

“I consider myself to be a well-informed person,” Chicdo said. “But I thought this was already a dead duck. I thought it had ended. I had no idea of the scope and range of what was going on. As they say, stuff rolls down hill and the volume of stuff like this that keeps rolling down upon us from Washington and state capitals is amazing.

“The fact that this could go on, sending more than $28 million in taxpayer dollars to a union is mind boggling,” Chiodo continued. “When you consider this, along with Obama's appointments to the National Labor Relations Board, it's frightening. I'm so glad that Indiana is becoming a right-to-work state. Gov. Rick Snyder has said that he's been inspired by Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels. This [Home Healthcare Dues Skim] gives us even more of a reason to ask Gov. Snyder  to push for right-to-work here in Michigan.”

To hold a unionization election in 2006, an employer-employee relationship had to be claimed. The Michigan Quality Community Care Council was the figurehead employer used in that forced unionization election.

Last year, the state legislature cut off funding for MQC3, effective Oct. 1, 2011, but MQC3 continues to function. Its continuation allows roughly $6 million of taxpayer money to flow (in the form of dues) from the home health care workers' checks to the SEIU.

The House has passed legislation (HB 4003) to stop the flow of dues, but Senate leadership continues to sit on the bill.

In light of the updated statistics on how many workers are affected and how few have multiple clients, Capitol Confidential sent an email to Susan Steinke, MQC3 executive director, on Tuesday, Jan. 24. The following is what was asked and stated in the email.

The number given us by DHS was 60,190 individual [home healthcare] providers with only 3,844 working for more than one client. [We are] looking for your comment on those figures.

Also, according to your (MQC3) website there are only 933 providers available on your registry. The appearance created is that, if there are positive impacts from MQC3, they're affecting a very small proportion of home health care workers, while the vast majority's only involvement is to have dues extracted from their checks that is then sent to the union. You certainly could comment on this, too.

Also, could you clarify how many of your home health care workers are having union dues extracted from Medicaid checks? Also, how many of the 56,000-plus home health care workers who only have one client are actually just people taking care of relatives?

Scott Heinzman, Chairperson of the MQC3 Board of Directors responded to the email.

In the email Heinzman said: “The Department of Community Health (DCH) would be the proper source to answer your questions regarding the figures you cite.”

“Mr. Heinzman's reply seems to prove that what Mackinac Center has claimed all along - MQC3 was just the figurehead employer used for the forced unionization, not the real employer of the thousands of home healthcare workers who were forced into the SEIU by stealth,” said Charlie Owens, state director of the Federation of Independent Business. “Why wouldn't an employer be able to provide information such as how many workers it employs?

“If MQC3 was really the employer of these home health care workers, as claimed for the election back in 2006, why would Mr. Heinzman refer these questions to DCH, which is a department of state government?” Owens continued. “If the owner of a small business tried to use a reply like that, when a state agency like the MIOSHA (Michigan Occupational Safety and Health Administration) asked for information, they'd never get away with in.”

Click here to view Heinzman's full response: "MCQ3 Response To Forced Unionization"

In a subsequent email, Heinzman said the home health care workers were not MQC3 employees. Instead, he said they are “co-employed by DCH and HHP (home health care provider) consumers."

However, this flies in the face of the 2006 unionization election in which MQC3 was certified as their employer.

These problems and inconsistencies now coming to light would likely have been addressed in public hearings over the unionization effort. But there weren't any public hearings when the unionization took place in 2006. Instead, the process was conducted under the radar, with the news media, Legislature and public shut out.

First among the issues that would likely have been debated had there been public hearings was whether any of the so-called home health care workers were qualified to be public employees. If so, the next question might have been which caregivers would be included. As reported previously in Capitol Confidential, many of the providers appear to be family members taking care of their own children or other relatives.

Another issue that might well have arisen was whether it is appropriate to deduct union dues from Medicaid checks. In fact many of these questions would probably have spawned public reactions if they'd been discussed in the open.

Zac Altefogt of SEIU Michigan Healthcare did not respond when given the opportunity to comment for this article.

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.