News Story

The Stealth Election That Led To The Home Health Care 'Dues Skim'

More than 50 years ago, President John F. Kennedy warned that “secret proceedings” present a danger to a free society.

"The very word 'secrecy' is repugnant in a free and open society; and we are as a people inherently and historically opposed to secret societies, to secret oaths and to secret proceedings," he said on April 27, 1961.

But in 2005, secrecy is exactly what happened in Michigan in a stealth unionization election that added 43,729 so-called home health care workers to the ranks of the Service Employees International Union. That number has swelled to 56,442, with most of them providing care to a family member or close friend.

Those workers have now contributed more than $29 million to the coffers of the SEIU including more than $4 million since June 2011, which is when the state Senate was delivered a bill from the House that would end the scam. Senate Republican leadership hasn't acted on the bill and did not respond to requests for comment.

There were problems early on. Many of the now unionized workers dispute they ever got a ballot to form a union and say they get no benefit from belonging to the SEIU.

Additionally, they had no idea a dummy employer, the Michigan Quality Community Care Council, was formed to serve as their "employer."

The Michigan Quality Community Care Council supplied the names and addresses to the Michigan Bureau of Employment Relations for the election, said MBER Director Ruthanne Okun.

The distribution of ballots for the election remains a troubling aspect of the scheme for those who oppose being represented.

Robert and Patricia Haynes, of Macomb Township, take care of their two adult children and are opposed to the forced unionization. Neither remember ever getting a ballot. Patricia Hayne says even if she did get a mailing from the SEIU she wouldn't have paid much attention to it because unionization wasn't on her radar.

It's unknown how many ballots were sent to bad addresses, but its clear from Okun's comments that there weren't intense efforts to send repeat ballots.

“If a ballot was returned as undeliverable and an updated address was provided, a duplicate ballot was sent, time permitting," she said.

Most of the so-called home health care workers were unaware they were being solicited for unionization because there was no news coverage of the stealth campaign.

Additionally, the ballots were neither clear nor self explanatory. Those who received them would have to had to know they were considered employees of the Michigan Quality Community Care Council to have had any chance of understanding the technical language.  But how many of the 43,729 knew this?

To qualify for an election the union claims to have handed in roughly 21,500 cards signed by alleged employees. Each card stated that the person who signed it favored having a unionization election; or words to that effect.

Getting these cards filled out was an easy task. The SEIU had plenty of people to do the legwork and few details had to be offered to those who were solicited. What the so-called home health care workers were likely not told is a long list of things that have happened since:

  • That by signing the cards they were adding credibility to the claim that they were employed by an entity (the dummy employer) of which many probably knew next to nothing about.
  • That by signing the cards they were saying they wanted to join a union.
  • That the dummy employer would later deny that it employed them.
  • That by signing the cards they were supporting an eventual collective bargaining agreement with a dummy employer that possessed no independent power to grant them health care benefits or wage increases.
  • That by signing the cards they were supporting an eventual collective bargaining agreement that might have had only one material effect on them, which was to allow dues to be extracted from their future taxpayer-provided checks for an indefinite period of time.

SEIU claims it sent out five notifications to the so-called home health care workers.

In the end, 6,949 people voted to form a union; 1,007 voted no; 12 ballots were disputed; and 589 ballots were spoiled.

On May 4, 2010, Okun testified before a Senate subcommittee on the forced unionization of daycare workers in Michigan, which used virtually the same scheme as the one that unionized the so-called home health care workers.

But that scheme didn't last. Gov. Rick Snyder ended the daycare situation shortly after taking office. The home health care unionization continues.

Zac Atlefogt, spokesman for SEIU Heathcare Michigan, did not return a phone for comment. Senate Republican leadership did not respond when offered a chance to comment.

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.