In 2005, the Michigan Employment Relations Commission inappropriately allowed and administered a union certification election for home-based caregivers, despite them not being public employees.
Unfortunately for those 40,000-some workers, who primarily are family members and friends caring for the state's most vulnerable residents, MERC made the decision in April not to correct its own mistake. For that reason, the Mackinac Center Legal Foundation this month filed an appeal in court, on behalf of people like Patricia Haynes and Steven Glossop, to have even a portion of the dues returned and the union certification declared illegal.
"Our clients and tens of thousands of other people who were shanghaied into this stealth unionization are caught in a Catch-22," Patrick J. Wright, director of the Mackinac Center Legal Foundation, said in a Mackinac Center press release. "MERC has said it can't correct its own mistake because these people aren't public employees, yet eight years ago MERC said they were. To be a public employee you have to have a public employer, and at no time have the parties that cooked up this scheme in the first place argued that the entity they cooked up was the public employer of these caregivers."
This is not the first example of an undemocratic approach to forming unions. The Mackinac Center has fought against similar efforts on behalf of home-based day care providers and graduate students. But the dues skim of home-based caregivers was one of the most brazen ever, funneling more than $34 million to the Service Employees International Union before it finally ended earlier this year.
Voters seem to agree. Last November, they overwhelmingly rejected Proposal 4, which would have enshrined the forced unionization scheme in the Michigan Constitution. Gov. Rick Snyder signed legislation in April 2012 making it clear that these home-based caregivers were not public employees and therefore could not be forced into a government union. That was later upheld by an opinion from Attorney General Bill Schuette.
The people have spoken. It's time that this sort of sneak-union certification be declared illegal and that a portion of the dues siphoned away be returned.