News Story

Bills aim to return Michigan to bad old days of dues skim

Voters soundly rejected this shady union funding practice in 2012

Michigan home health care workers might have to go back to giving up part of their paychecks to a union if two bills passed by the state Senate become law.

Senate bills 790 and 791 aim to revive the dues skim, in which a union takes money from Michigan home health care workers, most of whom are private people who get small public reimbursements for caring for elderly or disabled family members.

From 2004 to 2013, Care Council legislation created a fictional employment relationship between home health care providers and the state, allowing the Service Employees International Union to take millions of dollars from federal stipends. The practice was never popular with Michigan home health care providers, with only 20% voting for unionization in 2005. Over nine years, dues skimmed just from Medicaid checks totaled more than $31 million.

The practice came to an end after the Mackinac Center brought the practice to wide public attention. The Legislature defunded the Care Council in 2011. The SEIU tried to continue the skim by funding the council for another two years, allowing the union to collect an additional $12 million. But Michigan voters roundly rejected the practice when unions put the issue on the ballot as Proposition 4 of 2012.

Organized labor outspent opposition by a factor of more than four to one, putting almost $16.5 million into the ballot initiative. But voters rejected Prop 4 in a 57-43% vote, and dues skim came to an end in 2013.

But the bills passed by the Senate would reinstate this practice.

Sen. Kevin Hertel, D-St. Clair Shores, rallied with the SEIU at the state Capitol after the vote.

“The Senate just passed legislation that will help us build a home care system that works for everyone — a system where every family can access quality care and where caregivers no longer have to lay awake at night worrying about how to make ends meet,” Hertel posted on social media.

The union has donated to Hertel’s campaign and those of Michigan’s top three elected officials.

In 2022, the Michigan State SEIU Council donated $21,000 to Hertel’s campaign. Gov. Gretchen Whitmer has received over $107,000. Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson and Attorney General Dana Nessel each received $71,500 in 2022.

In 2008, SEIU spent $85 million to support the presidential campaign of Barack Obama. This year, SEIU has promised $200 million to President Joe Biden and other Democratic campaigns.

The Legislature sets stipends for home care providers, and spending on home health services has skyrocketed recently, rising by 38.1% from 2012-13 to 2023-24.

Michigan lawmakers could have given home health care providers a raise without enacting a mandatory union, said Patrick Wright, the vice president for legal affairs at the Mackinac Center.

“The legislators had and used the ability to give home help providers raises and extra appropriations without a mandatory union,” Wright said in a statement. “All a union will allow is for millions to tens of millions to be skimmed for union officials and politicians.”

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s office did not respond to a request 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.