News Story

Roots of SEIU Forced Unionization 'Money Skim' Lead To Former ACORN Organizer

To pull off the “Home Health Care Dues Skim,” a signature was required to certify that the 43,000 people who provided for the needs of homebound patients statewide were employed by one entity.

Apparently, a former ACORN “community organizer” provided that signature.

According to records at the Michigan Bureau of Employment Relations, the certification was signed in 2005 by John Freeman.

Political activist and politician John F. Freeman has not responded to phone calls for comment.

From 2002 through 2005, John F. Freeman was the director of the Michigan Home Care Campaign, which subsequently claimed to have “organized” home health care workers in Michigan to join the Service Employees International Union. In order for the union to be able to deduct dues from so-called home health care workers, it needed a company to be the official employer and that employer became official (on paper) when the person who was heading up the unionization effort signed the paperwork.

Based on articles available online, Freeman, a Madison Heights attorney, was an ACORN community organizer for six years before making an unsuccessful bid for the Michigan Senate in 1990. Two years later he was elected to the state House and served until 1998 when term limits prevented him from running for re-election.

Coming up with an entity to pencil-in as “the employer” of individuals across the state who provide for the needs of the homebound was the key in creating the “Home Health Care Skim.” In reality, many of these individuals thought they were simply taking care of a child or relative, or saw themselves as self-employed private contractors.

This “dues skim” started when former Gov. Jennifer Granholm was in office and is continuing. Since it began, the number of so-called employees with dues being taken from their checks has swelled to 56,442. So far the “skim” has brought more than $28 million to the SEIU, which the union can use for any political activity is wants.

House Bill 4003 was designed to stop the “skim” and prevent the possibility of other such setups in the future. The House passed HB 4003 in June 2011, but it appears that Senate leadership is sitting on the bill.

Michigan's employment relations structure assumes that a relationship between employer and employees will be self-evident, with the employees knowing full well who their employer is.

That process was corrupted in 2005. That's when the dummy employer was certified for the 43,000 so-called home health care workers. That's also when bureaucrats working under Gov. Granholm's administration accepted Freeman's certification. All of this occurred behind closed doors with the news media, the Legislature, the general public and many of the home health care workers unaware.

Acceptance of the dummy employer was followed by an unpublicized statewide unionization election. More than 80 percent of the so-called home health care workers did not vote in the election.

The dummy employer was the Michigan Quality Community Care Council, an interlocal agency tasked with maintaining a home health care registry and training program. MQC3 now insists it is not the employer. Its registry includes only 933 workers. But as a result of it being used as the dummy employer, 56.442 people are paying dues to SEIU Healthcare Michigan, the division of the SEIU technically involved in the forced unionization.

SEIU Healthcare Michigan spokesman Zac Altefogt did not return a phone call for comment.

The union has recently posted a rebuttal to the “forced unionization” claim in the “home health care skim.”

The union claims the following: “Federal law expressly prohibits so-called 'forced unionization.' This has been upheld by the U.S. Supreme Court. SEIU Healthcare Michigan notifies its members every year in writing that they may leave the union if they wish. Those who choose to leave are required by law to pay a smaller 'fair share cost,' which goes toward only the expenses related directly to collective bargaining.”

In reality, the U.S. Supreme Court decision cited by SEIU allows workers to opt out of a union after they are in a union. But the so-called home health care workers were “forced” into the union, many — if not most — unknowingly. There would be no need to opt out if they hadn't been forced in.

Opting out of a union doesn't stop dues from being taken from the workers' checks; it only reduces the amount. Also, the union says the workers would pay a “smaller” amount, but doesn't say how much.

Department of Community Health officials when asked how much the reduction would be said they didn't have the answer and referred the question to the union. But SEIU Health Care doesn't respond to requests for comment.

The question of legality involves whether or not the home health care workers were eligible to be considered as public employees. State law says only the Legislature has the authority to determine if someone is a public employee.

After the dues flow from the taxpayer-provided home health care workers' checks to the union was accomplished, Freeman moved on. Beginning in 2006, he was director of Michigan Needs a Raise, a short-lived ballot initiative campaign to raise the state's minimum wage.

In 2008, Freeman became executive director of “Health Care for Michigan.” As the head of this group, Freeman attempted to put a proposal on the statewide ballot to require lawmakers to ensure every resident had "comprehensive and affordable health care coverage through a fair and cost effective financing system."

This campaign was called the “Michigan Health Care Security Campaign.” It gathered 133,000 signatures, less than half of the 380,000 required to make it onto the ballot. The “Healthcare for Michigan” title lives on, however, and is now used in connection with Obamacare.

Freeman has since attempted to run for higher office twice. In the spring of 1998, former Michigan Attorney General Frank Kelley announced he wasn't seeking re-election. At the time Freeman briefly vied to replace Kelley on the '98 Democratic slate. However, by mid-summer Gov. Granholm, then serving as corporate counsel for Wayne County, had the attorney general nomination virtually locked up. More recently, Freeman tossed his hat briefly into the 2010 Democratic gubernatorial race, but pulled out very early.

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.