Union president's decision to allow mail-in votes to outgoing home-based caregivers upset some members
Votes were tabulated yesterday for a Service Employees International Union election, the same group that was behind the “home health care dues skim” that took more than $34 million from the elderly and disabled in Michigan.
Barring potential legal action, the SEIU Healthcare Michigan election will determine whether Marge Faville keeps her post as union president. However, some have raised questions about the election's legitimacy.
Faville and challenger Johnnie Jolliffi, who is the union's secretary-treasurer, are pitted against each other in the race. At issue in the election was Faville's plan to allow the home-based caregivers to vote in the election held on the eve of them leaving the union. Tens of thousands of home-based caregivers in Michigan were forced into the SEIU in 2005 after a mail-in election occurred. However, most of the people who received ballots didn't vote and didn't know they'd been unionized.
After years of trying by some in the union to end the forced unionization scheme, and a failed ballot proposal pushed by the SEIU to lock the scheme into the state constitution, the union contract ended and workers were freed from the union on March 1.
However, before the contract ended, Faville prevailed and the caregivers were eligible to vote. Ballots were supposedly sent out on Feb. 21. The mailing was significant because the SEIU Healthcare Michigan has about 55,000 members and about 44,000 of them were home-based caregivers. Though most probably weren't going to vote, those who did likely supported Faville, or at least recognized her name.
Union elections previously had been held at selected locations.
"There are two candidates running," said Tyrone Thurman, a Detroit Medical Center employee and union steward. "But one of those candidates is involved with how the election is being conducted. Marge [Faville] is right in the middle of that and Jolliffi isn't."
The SEIU mail-in election in 2005 was the first by-mail election ever allowed under the Michigan Employment Relations system. "I received three different ballots," Thurman said. "The third one I got was finally the right one. I talked with someone I know at [another facility]. They told me that tons of people over there hadn't even gotten their ballots."
Thurman said the union members who were having trouble getting their ballots were those who work in hospitals and other facilities, not the home-based caregivers.
Jolliffi earlier this year sued to try and stop the mail-in election. The Mackinac Center Legal Foundation separately filed a legal action with the Michigan Employee Relations Commission in an effort to recover $3 million in dues. That case is pending
Zac Altefogt, spokesman for the union, did not respond to a request for comment.