News Story

While Helping Out Injured Ex-Wife, Man Forced Into Union

Proposal 4 would ensure that people like Richard Nottage remain unionized public employees

When Richard Nottage of Kingley agreed to help out his ex-wife after she broke her leg, he had no idea that doing so made him a dues-paying member of a union.

"My ex-wife needed help and asked if I could help her," he said. "She'd called adult services, which did an interview and said she qualified for assistance. I helped her out for a couple of months and received one check that covered two pay periods (from May 16 to June 30). When I looked at the check I noticed it had union dues taken out of it. All I did was help out my ex-wife a few weeks and suddenly I was in a union."

Nottage said he had no idea how that happened.

"It was a surprise," Nottage said. "I didn't want to be in a union. I couldn't believe it. I couldn't figure out how this union was tied to the state. It seems pretty unfair. What did I get from the union? What could I get from the union? Nothing."

Nottage, however, was roped into the forced unionization scheme the Service Employees International Union created when Jennifer Granholm was governor. To date, more than $32 million has been taken by the SEIU from tens of thousands of people helping the disabled, elderly or injured in Michigan. 

And, if the SEIU gets its way, the scheme will be locked into the state constitution if voters approve Proposal 4 on the Nov. 6 ballot.

Supporters of the union-backed plan are hoping voters don't know what it's really all about. They're promoting the ballot measure as something that will allow people to be cared for at home. However, this federal Home Help Services Program has already been in existence for 31 years.

They also are claiming that Proposal 4 would create a registry to do background checks on so-called home-based caregivers. A registry for background checks has existed since 2006 and has generally been a flop because most of the caregivers take care of family or friends and there is little real need for it. The only thing not being talked about by Prop 4 supporters is the continuation of the forced unionization.

Nottage scoffed at the notion that a background check was needed for him to help his ex-wife.

"A background check? I can't imagine why," Nottage said. "My ex-wife knows as much about my background as I do."

Nottage said he helped out his ex-wife by taking her to the doctor's office and delivering meals to her, among other things.

"There wasn't anything involved that you'd normally think of when you talk about a union," he said. "It had nothing to do with things like hours or working conditions. Being put in a union for helping her was ridiculous."

It has been difficult to attach an exact number as to how many home-based caregivers are in Michigan. The Nottage situation shows why. Earlier this year the state said more than 61,000 caregivers had dues taken out of their checks. It is now clear that this number included those who participated in the program on a temporary basis.

Language in Proposal 4 would ensure that Michigan's home-based caregivers will remain unionized with a newly created dummy employer, the Michigan Quality Home Care Council. An "employer" is necessary to bolster the forced unionization with a collective bargaining agreement.

The idea that the union ever represented or will represent the home-based caregivers at the collective bargaining table is a charade. The employers are the people receiving care and the union has no way to truly bargain on their behalf. Additionally, Proposal 4 explicity states that the home-based caregivers are not eligible for any state benefits, but they would continue watching their money taken by the SEIU nonetheless.

Nottage said he recently received a letter from SEIU, urging him to vote for an inner-union proposal to reduce the amount of dues taken out of the Medicaid checks.

"When I read it, I wondered what it was all about," Nottage said. "Then I remembered — of course, the election is coming up."

Nottage said he's not sure why he'd still be considered as a union member, now that his ex-wife has recovered.

"It makes me wonder if they have some reason for wanting to claim a high number of members,” Nottage said.

Dohn Hoyle, treasurer and co-chairman of the group supporting Proposal 4, did not respond to a request for comment on this story and has ignored numerous other requests for comment.


See also:

Proposal 4: The Unionization of Home-Based Caregivers

Proposal To Keep Forced Unionization Intact – It’s All About The Money

SEIU Ballot Proposal Raises Questions

Home Health Care Ballot Initiative Would Usurp Power From the Governor

Commentary: Prop 4 Supporters Promise Programs That Already Exist

'It's hard to believe the union could get away with something like this'

SEIU Ballot Language Disconnected From Reality

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.