News Story

Health Care Workers Having Trouble Finding Union That Plays Fair

Union member: 'Thank God that Michigan is now a right-to-work state'

The National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation has gone to the National Labor Relations Board alleging unfair labor practices on behalf of employees at Mercy Health Partners Hackley Campus in Muskegon and the Luther Manor skilled nursing facility in Saginaw.

Two years ago, following a long battle, the health care workers at the Muskegon and Saginaw facilities got out of the Service Employees International Union. Employees said union officials had been unresponsive to their requests, had a track record of nepotism and generally were operating in a questionable manner.

The specific SEIU affiliate involved was SEIU Healthcare Michigan, the same union that was behind the home health care dues skim, which orchestrated the forced unionization of home-based caregivers across the state and took more than $34 million from them until the scheme ended last year. The workers in Muskegon and Saginaw were legitimate private sector members who really had one employer and a real collective bargaining agreement.

After leaving the SEIU, the health care workers in Muskegon and Saginaw voted to join the National Union of Healthcare Workers (NUHW). However, within a relatively short period of time, the NUHW handed the workers over to another union and then apparently just walked away.

"Since about last June they (NUHW) stopped responding to workers' emails and questions," said Hasan Zahdeh, a cardiovascular interventional technologist at the Muskegon facility. "Basically, our union sold us to another union that we never voted to be in. I don't know of anyone here who is currently paying union dues under these circumstances. Thank God that Michigan is now a right-to-work state where it's about the workers not the unions."

The NUHW accepted a $2.3 million loan from another union, the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers (IAM), and then entered into an agreement with the IAM under which the IAM would service the collective bargaining agreement at the Muskegon and Saginaw health care facilities.

"It is legal to enter into a servicing agreement with another union,” said Glenn Taubman, attorney for the Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation. "But what we have now is no longer just 'servicing' but a complete shift of representation.

"NUHW's LM-2 (government required financial report) shows that the union is fairly broke and NUHW's magazine no longer lists the Michigan unit as one of its units, thus giving credence to the idea that it was transferred or sold to the IAM without employee permission," Taubman said.

Zahdeh said the health care workers have been willing to be represented by a union, if the union will do what a union is supposed to do.

"I don't know why the union can't just provide the service they are supposed to provide and then we'd pay them for it," he said. "Instead, there is this mentality the unions seem to have that instead of providing service to earn their dues they'll just use bait-and-switch tactics aimed solely at trying to keep their dues flowing."

The NUHW was formed in California by former union officials who broke away from the SEIU. 

Officials from the NUHW could not be reached for comment.

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.