News Story

Home Health Care Ballot Initiative Would Usurp Power From the Governor

SEIU-backed proposal would lock union perks into the state constitution

Wording in a proposal to lock a forced home health care worker unionization scheme into the state constitution could also usurp power from Gov. Rick Snyder.

It looks likely that the union-backed proposal “Keep Home Care Safe” will be on the November ballot. The proposal is an attempt by the Service Employees International Union to continue receiving dues money from the Medicaid checks of people in the federal Home Help Program.

Language in the proposal would constitutionally place current members of the Michigan Quality Community Care Council (MQC3) board onto the board of a new entity, called the Michigan Quality Home Care Council (MQHCC). What's more, it locks those members into new four-year terms.

Gov. Snyder can name, replace and remove members of the MQC3 board. However, if the SEIU–backed proposal passes, he wouldn’t be able to do that for at least four years.

“Some people have to stop thinking of the constitution as a coloring book where if they don’t like something they just try to change it,” said Rep. Al Pscholka, R-Stevensville, chair of the House Appropriations Subcommittee on the Department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs.

Sara Wurfel, a spokeswoman for Gov. Snyder, said all the potential ballot proposals are being reviewed by the governor's office but could not comment further until that process was complete.

In 2005, the SEIU targeted Michigan’s share of the federal Home Help Program as a dues-producing source. Under the federal Home Help Program, elderly patients and others suffering from various ailments and afflictions can be cared for at home instead of being placed in nursing homes or other institutions.

While Jennifer Granholm was governor, an “election” was held that set up the MQC3 as the dummy employer that made the scheme possible. Most of those who were unionized didn’t know they were being sent ballots.

As a result, Michigan’s 44,000 Home Help Program participants (since then it’s been as many as 61,000) were labeled as “home health care workers.” Dues started being deducted from their Medicaid checks after the forced unionization was accomplished. The union has taken more than $31 million from unsuspecting workers and, as its lawyer stated in a court hearing, is using that money largely for political purposes.

Roughly 75 percent of these so-called “home health care workers” are relatives or friends of the patients.

It is no coincidence that the dummy employer (MQC3) in the 2005 forced unionization and the MQHCC, which would be created by the proposal, have similar-sounding names. Basically, the proposal would place the framework of the SEIU scheme right into the constitution, with MQHCC serving as the new dummy employer.

Currently, the MQC3 board serves at the pleasure of the governor. Gov. Snyder could replace the members, but he has not chosen to do so. He could do so anytime before the November election.

If Snyder fails to act before the election and the proposal is added to the ballot and passes, the current MQC3 board members would start serving constitutionally mandated terms on the new MQHCC. Those terms would last through 2016.

Having a board appointed by Gov. Snyder that was less sympathetic to the SEIU’s forced unionization could make a difference even if the proposal were to reach the ballot and pass. It would conceivably give Gov. Snyder a voice in issues such as turning down contract extensions, asking for a new unionization election and reducing the administration fee, which is the amount of money that would come out of the Medicaid checks for those who choose to leave the union.

The pertinent language in the proposal reads as follows:

The Council shall be governed by a board of eleven (11) members, including:

a) Nine individuals appointed by the governor with expertise regarding participant needs, no fewer than seven of whom shall be current or former program participants, participant representatives, or participant advocates; however such positions shall initially be filled by those similarly qualified members of the Michigan Quality Community Care Council board who last filled those positions prior to the passage of this section. Upon expiration of each such initial member’s term of appointment, the position to be filled under this paragraph shall have a term of four years.

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.