News Story

Legal Foundation Seeks End to Forced Unionization of Home-Based Caregivers

State agency asked to award $3 million back to workers that the SEIU took as dues

The Service Employees International Union has engaged in unfair labor practices against workers stemming from the union's 2005 forced unionization of Michigan home-based caregivers, according to a Mackinac Center Legal Foundation filing made today with the Michigan Employment Relations Commission.

The legal action against the SEIU asks the Michigan Employment Relations Commission to reverse the decision that recognized the forced unionization of those workers nearly seven years ago. It also asks that the money being taken from the Medicaid checks of disabled and elderly people in Michigan be immediately ended and for the return of about six months' worth of dues, or about $3 million.

The action stems from what has become known as the SEIU "dues skim" that began under the administration of former Gov. Jennifer Granholm and resulted in about 44,000 people being forced into the SEIU. To date more than $32 million has been taken by the SEIU from workers, most of whom didn't vote in the unionization election and are taking care of family and friends. 

Those forced into the SEIU were already home-based caregivers in the federal Home Help Program, which ensures that the elderly and disabled can get care in their homes. 

"The commission needs to recognize that these people are not and never were government employees, especially in light of recent state legislation," said Patrick J. Wright, director of the Mackinac Center Legal Foundation. "We saw this same scheme take place with home-based day care providers. It was wrong then and it is wrong now."

The SEIU is backing Proposal 4 in an effort to lock the forced unionization of these workers into the state constitution.

In April, Gov. Rick Snyder signed a law making the unionization of home-based caregivers illegal because they are not state employees.

If MERC reverses the 2005 decision, the results could be significant. Here's what could happen: 

  • Home-based caregivers would no longer have to give money to the SEIU in the form of dues and could spend that money themselves on essentials and supplies.
  • If Proposal 4 were defeated on Nov. 6, the skimming of union dues could end permanently.
  • If Proposal 4 were to pass, the SEIU could still be forced to go through the entire unionization process again. However, this time it would likely have to be done with transparency.

The Mackinac Center Legal Foundation is representing Patricia Haynes, of Macomb County, and Steven Glossop, of Isabella County in the case. Patricia and her husband Robert provide around-the-clock care for their two adult children, both of whom suffer from cerebral palsy.

"They're basically 6-month-olds in adult bodies," Robert Haynes has said in explaining the care they need.  

Haynes, who is retired Detroit Police officer, said he has no objection to organized labor.

"I feel like I'm not getting any union representation," he said. "They are not benefitting me in any way. They are taking money away that we could be using for our kids."

Glossop said the primary impact the SEIU's forced unionization has on his situation is the loss of money he could use to take care of his elderly mother who suffered a stroke while recovering from a heart attack.

"This whole thing just gets me," Glossop said. "It's hard to believe the union could get away with something like this. They (the union) can't do anything about things like working conditions. They have no idea what goes on inside our house each day. I'd say the biggest effect that being in this union has had on me is them taking money from our checks. To me, it's just thievery."

The $3 million the legal foundation wants to see reimbursed to the home-based caregivers dates back to the day the new law was enacted. The rest of the money cannot be recovered due to the statute of limitations.

On the day Gov. Snyder signed legislation into law clarifying that the caregivers were not public employees, an SEIU affiliate, the SEIU Healthcare Michigan, signed a contract extension with the Michigan Quality Community Care Council, the dummy organization used to help facilitate the scheme.

The SEIU, fearing the loss of $6 million a year, asked a federal judge in May to allow the scheme to continue. U.S. District Court Judge Nancy Edmunds upheld the contract extension after a union attorney told the court that the SEIU needed the money because it was a "First Amendment advocacy organization" and would "suffer irreparable damage" if the dues skim ended.

Wright said an unfair labor practice charge against the SEIU Healthcare Michigan and the Michigan Quality Community Care Council stems from a conflict of interest because the SEIU gave the MQC3 $12,000 to continue operating before the parties signed the contract extension.

"This charade is all too familiar," Wright said. "How many times are unions going to repeat this game in order to fill their coffers? This situation is particularly egregious because it targets Michigan’s most vulnerable families by taking money away from the developmentally disabled just so the union can spend it on politics."

MERC officials will review the filing and determine if action taken should be taken against the SEIU and MQC3. It is not clear how long that process will take.

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.