News Story

Union Pushes Ballot Proposal To Keep 'Dues Skim' Alive

After cashing in on “Home Health Care Dues Skim” to the tune of more than $29 million, the union involved wants to write the “skim” into the state constitution.

The Service Employees International Union (SEIU) is taking initial steps toward putting the issue on the Nov. 6 ballot. To qualify for the ballot the union must collect at least 322,609 valid signatures through a petition drive.

This move by the SEIU comes as passage of legislation (House Bill 4003 or Senate Bill 1018), which was drafted to end the “skim,” appears to be nearing passage in the Senate.

“Now that the gig is up and lawmakers and the public are waking up to the scam and threatening to end it just like the day care fiasco, the union is buying petition signatures (they hire a firm that is paid to collect enough signatures) to get the issue on the ballot in November,” said Charlie Owens, state director of the National Federation of Independent Business (NFIB). “The petition language, submitted by an SEIU fronted group, would amend the state constitution to establish the phony shell employer created by the union and the administration of Jennifer Granholm to lasso unsuspecting home health care workers into the union and funnel taxpayer money into union coffers.”

Pat Wright, senor legal analyst for the Mackinac Center for Public Policy, refers to the SEIU ballot proposal effort as a “Hail Mary pass.” He also maintains that the proposal is unconstitutional. However, it's too early in the ballot proposal process for challenging it on those grounds.

Specifically, the union's proposed constitutional amendment would establish something called the Michigan Quality Home Care Council in the constitution. Ostensibly, this council would provide a registry of providers of in-home care to seniors and people with disabilities.

This seems to be a continuation of the original “cover story” used to justify the “skim.”

The “home health care dues skim” resulted from a union scheme perpetrated that used a dummy employer and a stealth election to force 43,729 so-called home health care workers into the SEIU. That 43,729 has now swollen to 60,190.

Roughly 75 percent of those unionized were people taking care of relatives or close friends. It now appears that that percentage has increased. These people are having the dues taken from their Medicaid checks.

“I have not seen the language, but considering they've skimmed almost $30 million that they can now use for virtually anything, they certainly have the money to pay people to collect signatures and make a go of it,” said Rep. Paul Opsommer, R-Dewitt, the sponsor of House Bill 4003. “But, depending on what the language does say, I've already heard a lot of people calling their efforts an unexpected gift.

“That is because they would essentially have to go to the public and say 'Should a person who used to receive Medicaid assistance to take care of disabled loved ones at home now have to receive a W-2 and have union dues taken out of that money before they can receive it?' " Rep. Opsommer said. "Who would support that?"

In June, the House passed House Bill 4003. In December, the Senate Reforms Restructuring and Reinventing approved the bill and sent it to the Senate floor. At that point, however, it stalled.

Then last week, Sen. Dave Hildenbrand, R-Lowell, introduced a duplicate bill, that mirrored House Bill 4003. This duplicate measure, Senate Bill 1018 garnered 21 Senate Republicans as co-sponsors. Only 20 votes are needed to pass a bill in the Senate.

Introduction of the duplicate bill, with so many co-sponsors, showed that the Senate GOP caucus wants the issue addressed. It's now believed that either House Bill 4003 or Senate Bill 1018 could be taken up for a vote in the Senate this week.

With the high level of pressure in the Senate to move legislation to end the “skim” as a backdrop, the SEIU is turning to the ballot proposal route. On Monday, the State Board of Canvassers approved the form of the union's petition. This is a procedural step, which has nothing to do with the substance of the proposal.

“We are convinced the proposal is unconstitutional,” Wright said. “All the board did Monday was approve the petition in form. The law requires it to do that. Essentially, as long as the typesetting was the right size the board had to give its approval. That would be so even if the wording was just a restaurant menu.”

Under the SEIU proposal, the so-called home health care workers would be considered public employees only for collective bargaining purposes. Wright argues that such an arrangement would blatantly violate federal labor laws.

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.