News Story

Further Down the Rabbit Hole: Forced Unionization 'Dues Skim' Linked To West Coast Scandal

SEIU officials who led charge to unionize unsuspecting workers are now long gone

Rickman Jackson came to Michigan directly from Los Angeles. The Service Employees International Union Local 6434 official was the protégé of an influential union boss and the guy who signed the collective bargaining agreement that made the "Home Health Care Dues Skim" in Michigan possible.

More than $28 million has been taken from home health care workers' checks since that happened, but Jackson wasn't around long to see how the union he represented continues to profit from the “skim.”

Michigan's “Home Health Care Dues Skim” has its roots in Los Angeles at Local 6434 of the SEIU. 

With a membership of 155,000 home health care workers, SEIU Local 6434 was the largest union local in California in the middle of the last decade. It also appears to have been the pilot project for questionable unionizations that later took place in other states — including Michigan.

Jackson learned at the side of Andy Stern, who headed the national SEIU until 2010 and in the early months of the Barack Obama administration Stern became known as the “man who had Obama's ear.”

Stern got Jackson a post at Los Angeles Local 6434. After his apprenticeship there, Jackson was reassigned to Michigan. He became the first president of SEIU Healthcare Michigan, but resigned not long after getting that post.

Nonetheless, dues from the “skim” are still flowing to the union's coffers. House Bill 4003 would end the flow of that cash and was passed by the House last June, but Michigan's GOP-controlled Senate continues to sit on the bill.

While that happens, the SEIU is free to use the dues it collects for any political purposes it deems appropriate including helping Obama's re-election campaign; helping the Democrats try to recapture the Michigan House or trying to overturn the state's Emergency Manager law.

SEIU Michigan Healthcare was sanctioned as a union in early August 2008, by a vote of SEIU Local 79. As president of the new union, Jackson was present, along with former Gov. Jennifer Granholm, when the creation of SEIU Healthcare Michigan was celebrated on Aug. 17, 2008.

Within days of the celebration, the Los Angeles Times broke the story of a major scandal in California. According to news accounts, Los Angeles Local 6434 and a related charity had paid hundreds of thousands of dollars to firms owned by the wife and mother-in-law of its president, Tyrone Freeman.

Jackson had been Freeman's chief-of-staff and was implicated in the scandal. He took an immediate leave of absence. Soon afterward, (in October 2008) he officially resigned as SEIU Healthcare Michigan president.

However, Jackson's involvement with the “home health care dues skim” went far deeper than the few weeks in 2008 that he had been president of the Michigan union.

According to the Los Angeles Times, Jackson told the newspaper that he had been based in Michigan since 2005. The newspaper also reported that Labor Department records showed that Los Angeles Local 6434 continued to pay Jackson his $133,000 salary through 2007. Meanwhile, according to the newspaper, Jackson received about $45,000 in unspecified disbursements from the union in Michigan.

Placing Jackson in Michigan as early as 2005 fits a time line. Before SEIU Healthcare Michigan officially became a union, it was a functioning entity within the SEIU; apparently a union-in-the-making at an organizational phase. Jackson was the head of this organization.

What's more, 2005 was the year that 43,000 of the state's so-called “home health care workers” were railroaded into the SEIU through a forced unionization. This took place covertly using a dummy employer and an unpublicized statewide election, in which more than 80 percent of those involved did not cast votes. Less than a year later, Jackson signed the collective bargaining contract that locked in the dues deductions.

The Michigan Quality Community Care Council (MQC3) was used as the dummy employer for the forced unionization. It's questionable whether even half of the 43,000 home health care workers knew at the time what MQC3 was, let alone that it was supposedly their employer.

In addition to posing as the employer of the home health care workers, MQC3's purpose was to maintain a home health care worker registry. Creation of the registry was a device borrowed directly from Los Angeles Local 6434. It appears that this registry, and some training it is supposed to provide, was developed to give supporters of the “skim” something they could claim had value.

Michigan's other infamous forced unionization under former Gov. Granholm involved day care workers. It appears to have been set up in virtually the same manner as the “home health care dues skim.” However, the day care scheme didn't include anything that supporters could claim had value. That fact, among others, helped to end the day care situation.

It's clear that the supposed value in the registry has worked for the union.Those who defend continuation of the “skim” point to this registry as the primary reason for keeping the dues flowing.

There are now 55,442 so-called home health care workers paying dues to the union, but the registry includes only 933. What's more, MQC3, which maintains the registry, no longer claims it is the employer of the so-called home health care workers.

After resigning as president of SEIU Michigan Healthcare, Jackson was reassigned to the national SEIU office in Washington, D.C. He was later sent to an SEIU affiliate in Canada for three years.

Michigan Capitol Confidential has been unable to reach Jackson.

Zac Atlefogt, spokesman for SEIU Heathcare Michigan, did not return a phone call for comment.

Tyrone Freeman, Jackson's mentor at Los Angeles Local 6434, was in the news as recently as two months ago. Reportedly, the U.S Justice Department was pursuing criminal charges against him for stealing more than $1 million from SEIU members in Los Angeles.

Stern resigned from SEIU in the spring of 2010, leaving the union with a pile of debt.

They, along with Jackson, are gone, but the “home health care dues skim” continues.

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.