News Story

2013 In Review: Worker Freedom, Medicaid Expansion Took Center Stage

Michigan saw significant and important policy changes in 2013.

Three stories in particular made headlines locally and nationally. The passage of a right-to-work law made Michigan the 24th state in the nation and gives union members freedom in the workplace; a forced unionization scheme that took more than $34 million from home-based caregivers officially — and finally — ended; and a critical component of the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare) was put in place in Michigan.

Union executives lobbied hard in Lansing and stuck to talking points in news stories across the state claiming that giving union members the right to decide if they want to pay dues or fees to a union as a condition of employment would result in dangerous work places, lower wages, higher unemployment and the general demise of the state. History of right-to-work laws in other states disproves these claims and Michigan didn't spiral into oblivion during the first nine months of the law being active in the Great Lake State.

A second major story in the state in 2013 also involved unionization. Home-based caregivers in Michigan were freed from a forced unionization scheme that was orchestrated when Jennifer Granholm was governor and locked more than 59,000 people into a Service Employees International Union affiliate.

Not all the major news stories of the year were good for taxpayers and residents in the state. Gov. Rick Snyder pushed hard for the expansion of Medicaid in Michigan and got his wish. Doing so implemented a key component of Obamacare and by some estimates, puts Michigan residents on the hook for billions in costs when the federal government's promise of funds runs out.

Freedom to Work in Michigan

Officially, the law went into effect March 28, three months after Gov. Snyder signed it amid howls and some violence by union members and their allies at protests in Lansing.

Debate about making Michigan a right-to-work state had been ongoing for more than 20 years. Importantly, the law does not do away with collective bargaining, nor does it get rid of unions. It means a union can no longer get a worker fired for not paying dues or fees.

Union members whose contracts expire can now decide if the services they are getting from the union are worth the investment.

That accountability worries unions across the state. Sensing that some workers would exercise their rights, unions worked furiously to extend contracts or put sometimes decade-long "union security agreements" in place that locked members into paying dues or fees.

That's what occurred in the Taylor School District, where a union security agreement prevents teachers from being able to exercise their rights to leave until 2023.

The state's largest teachers union, the Michigan Education Association, only allows its members to leave the union in August, which resulted in a series of hearings before a Senate committee. The Mackinac Center Legal Foundation is representing eight educators who want to leave the MEA.

The SEIU "Dues Skim" Finally Ends

In April, more than 59,000 home-based caregivers in Michigan cashed larger Medicaid checks than they had for the previous seven years. That's because the Service Employees International Union no longer was able to skim money from the checks and have it sent directly to the union.

The complex scheme involved a dummy employer, a mail-in election and efforts by some Republicans in the Legislature to ignore or delay action that would have ended the dues skim years earlier.

Most of the home-based caregivers in Michigan take care of friends and family and did not see any benefits from being in a union

The SEIU went to great lengths to try and preserve the scheme but those efforts all eventually failed. The collective bargaining agreement that kept the scheme alive officially ended Feb. 28 and actions by the Legislature and the governor ensured that a new contract would not be imposed upon home-based caregivers.

The Mackinac Center Legal Foundation is working to get some of the money taken from the caregivers returned to them.

Medicaid Expansion Takes Place in Michigan

At the intense push of Gov. Snyder, Michigan became the 25th state in the nation to expand Medicaid. Doing so helps the Obama administration put Obamacare in place.

President Barack Obama offered billions in upfront money to Michigan and other states that approved the expansion.

About 300,000 able-bodied adult Michigan residents now will be put onto the Medicaid rolls. That number is expected to increase to 470,000.

Opponents of the expansion pointed to studies that showed that medical outcomes under Medicaid is no better than the care received by people with no health insurance coverage at all.

Democrats supplied the majority of the votes for passage, but they were joined by Republicans in the House and Senate who voted to expand Medicaid.

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.