News Story

'Dues Skim' Ballot Proposal Proponents Cloud Issue With Mistruths

Campaign repeatedly engages in falsehoods to lock in millions for the SEIU

Embedding the unionization of Michigan's so-called home health care workers into the state constitution is the goal of a prospective ballot proposal called “Keep Home Care Safe.”

Those who support the proposal have made it clear how they plan to get it passed. First and foremost, they are counting on well-meaning voters who don't know that the federal Home Help Program exists. Under that program, elderly patients and others suffering from various dysfunctions can be cared for at home instead of being placed in nursing homes or other institutions.

In roughly 75 percent of the cases, those providing the care are relatives or friends of the patient.

In 2005, the Service Employees International Union targeted Michigan's Home Help Program as a potential dues-producing source.

Michigan's Home Help Program was well-established before Jennifer Granholm was elected governor. While Granholm was governor, the SEIU held a little-known election that forced Michigan's 44,000 Home Help Program participants into the union. Dues have been taken from the Medicaid checks of the Home Help Program participants and sent to the SEIU ever since. This flow of dues to the union is called the “home health care dues skim." The SEIU has taken more than $31 million from disabled residents in Michigan.

Faced with a new law that would eventually end the “skim,” the SEIU is resorting to a ballot proposal. If passed, the proposal would lock the “skim” into the state constitution.

Those who oppose the proposal predict that to sell it to Michigan voters, the SEIU will pretend that the proposal creates the Home Help Program despite the fact the program already exists and has been around for years.

The union is already using this strategy as evidenced by how the proposal is described on the ballot proposal's website.

“Senior and disability rights groups across Michigan are working to put a proposal on the November ballot that would give all Michiganders — including seniors and persons with disabilities — the choice to direct their own care in their own homes, instead of forcing them into expensive nursing homes or institutions."

In addition to the website, there have been dozens of reports that the signatures gathered to put the proposal on the ballot were collected by the use of this same claim. A Michigan Capitol Confidential staffer was approached by a signature gatherer in Oakland County who claimed signing the petition would help "ensure elderly and disabled residents would not be forced into nursing homes."

When informed about the SEIU's taking of millions for dues, she walked away.

"Let's make one thing abundantly clear, this ballot proposal has nothing to do with creating a home help care program to keep people out of nursing homes," said Rep. Paul Opsommer, R-Dewitt. "That program is already in existence, and gives many people an option to stay in familiar surroundings with loved ones. What this ballot proposal is instead about is the SEIU trying to hijack the federal Home Help Program, twisting it for its own purposes, and then milking it for everything it can."

A second argument that will be used for the proposal is that the Home Help Program is somehow in danger of being blocked and the proposal is needed to save it. Virtually no one opposes the Home Help Program.

This "threatened program" tactic has been used previously. In April, when legislation to end the "dues skim" was in the Michigan House, opponents of the bill told those who depend on the program that the legislation would cut them off.

A third tactic the union can be expected to use is to mix in rhetoric about a registry to do criminal background checks of professional caregivers in the Home Help Program. If the state decides to run the registry that now exists, it could do so with one or two employees. In seven years, only 933 names have been collected for the registry, despite 61,000 providers being forced to join the union. Such a registry requires neither the proposal nor the union.

Finally, voters should not be surprised that they'll likely not be hearing anything about the SEIU's role in this ballot proposal nor the existing scheme to keep taking dues money. Instead, spokespeople for this union-backed plan will include social service agency workers, lobbyists and some government officials.

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.