On Nov. 6, 2012, Michigan voters will be asked to consider Proposal 4, which would amend Michigan’s constitution. If Proposal 4 is approved, the new amendment would affect the unionization and working arrangement of caregivers who receive indirect Medicaid subsidies to work in the homes of disabled adults and provide them with basic care.

Specifically, Proposal 4 would:

  • Allow in-home caregivers to unionize and bargain collectively[1]
  • Create a new public body called the Michigan Quality Home Care Council, which would operate within the executive branch of state government[2] and:

– Bargain collectively with the union representing the in-home health care givers[3]

– Provide training for in-home caregivers[4]

– Create a registry of in-home caregivers who have passed a background check and make that registry available to care recipients (though recipients are free to choose nonregistered caregivers)[5]

– Provide patients with “financial management services” to help them comply with applicable laws as employers of in-home caregivers[6]

– Honor any existing collective bargaining agreement with the Service Employees International Union on behalf of Michigan’s in-home caregivers[7]

– Set “compensation standards” and “other terms and conditions of employment for the employment of individual [in-home care] providers,” although these would ultimately be determined by “appropriations by the Legislature.”[8]

Proposal 4 was initiated by “Citizens for Affordable Quality Home Care,” a coalition supported by advocates for government programs for the disabled and by the Service Employees International Union. Citizens for Affordable Quality Home Care submitted a sufficient number of voters’ signatures to have Proposal 4 placed on the ballot and to amend the constitution pursuant to Article 12, Section 2, of the Michigan Constitution of 1963.

The provisions above would be added as a new Section 31 to the existing Article 5 of Michigan’s constitution. The MQHCC would succeed the similarly named Michigan Quality Community Care Council (the “MQC3”),[9] which is not in the constitution. The MQC3 will be discussed later in detail.

The MQHCC would be governed by an 11-member council.[10] In general, the governor would directly appoint nine of these members, “no fewer than seven of whom shall be current or former program participants, participant representatives, or participant advocates.”[11] Initially, however, Proposal 4 would require that seven of these positions be filled by the current MQC3 directors, who would serve out their current terms.[12] The other two board positions would be filled by the Department of Community Health director (serving as chair) and the Department of Human Services director, both of whom are appointed by the governor.[13] The two directors could also appoint designees to serve in their stead.[14]

As noted, the amendment would require the continued observance of any MQC3 collective bargaining agreement with the SEIU,[15] along with the dues-paying requirement to that union. However, for the first time, the Michigan Constitution would mandate that the in-home caregivers be considered “public employees” for the purpose of collective bargaining. The constitutional requirement that in-home caregivers be considered public employees for the purpose of unionization is, as we will see, a fairly new occurrence.