News Story

Michigan home health workers would be protected from dues skim if right-to-work is repealed

Home health care workers are one group of people who would not be affected by right-to-work’s repeal

Linda Smith began caring for her special needs brother in 2004, after her other brothers died. She says her brother has always required a lot of care, due to a brain-related disability he has had since birth. The Michigan Department of Health and Human Services was paying her approximately $368 per month. It wasn’t enough to cover his monthly needs, she says, but she loved her brother and never complained about the low pay.

That is, she was forced to pay a monthly fee to the Service Employees International Union, or SEIU, in what is now known as a “dues skim.”

The SEIU was permitted, during the administration of former Gov. Jennifer Granholm, to force a payment from anyone receiving government support for providing care for a loved one. Smith tells CapCon she was told at first she had to pay only half of the dues required, or $12 per month. Within a year, however, things changed, she says. Smith received a notice that she would have to pay the full dues amount, approximately $24 per month.

Smith paid the dues for several years, until the Mackinac Center for Public Policy exposed the dues skim. Its efforts led to Public Act 76 of 2012, which protects home health care workers, including Smith. The act says these individuals cannot be unionized, because the law does not define them as public employees.

“I was very angry. Where is my freedom? How can they come in here and tell me they are going to do this and I have to abide by it?” Smith asks. When she saw recently that Democrats in the Michigan Legislature plan to repeal the state’s right-to-work law, she was concerned.

But she was relieved, she says, to learn that she won’t be forced to pay the SEIU, even if lawmakers repeal right-to-work. That’s because she is protected by Harris v. Quinn, a 2014 U.S. Supreme Court ruling that forbids the forced unionization of home-based caregivers who receive government payments.

Smith provides round-the-clock care for her brother. She cooks meals, administers medicines, grooms him and bears other responsibilities. She says that with all this to do, she is glad to know she does not have to worry about forced union dues.

Steve Delie, director of labor policy at the Mackinac Center for Public Policy, agrees.

“Home health care workers, who have the incredibly difficult job of caring for sick and disabled loved ones, shouldn’t have to also worry about whether unions are skimming dues from their paycheck,” he says. “Thankfully, both Michigan law and numerous Supreme Court decisions prevent these workers from forced to financially support a union. As a result, these workers can focus on their more important role as caretaker.”

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.