When members of the Michigan Employee Relations Commission (MERC) allowed the forced unionization of home-based caregivers in 2005, they seemed to know their role. But when the Mackinac Center Legal Foundation asked for a declaratory ruling to reverse that decision, the commissioners began searching for their job descriptions.
Wednesday, October 10, 2012, Nino Green, a commissioner appointed by former Gov. Jennifer Granholm said, “If you take their [The Mackinac Center Legal Foundation] allegations as true, they’re coming before us and saying ‘[The home-based caregivers] are not public employees.’ Well, you’re in the wrong forum. We don’t have jurisdiction over non-public employees.”
MERC certified the forced unionization of more than 40,000 people, resulting in a $32 million dues skim since 2005. A study published by MCLF Senior Attorney Derk Wilcox explains why MERC should not have taken that action and why it is in federal court.
“These people were not public employees,” MCLF Senior Legal Analyst Patrick Wright told MERC during the public comment period. “Under MERC’s existing case law, if there was any administration dismissal, it should have occurred when the petition was filed in 2005. It didn’t. And this is why we find ourselves in a difficult position of trying to undo something that’s taken on a little bit of a chicken and egg problem because it should have never been certified in the first place.”
The MCLF is representing Patricia Haynes of Macomb County and Steven Glossop of Isabella County, who were forced into a union and forced to pay dues for taking care of their disabled loved ones. Haynes wonders how she can collectively bargain with her special-needs children who cannot speak. Glossop, who takes care of his disabled mother, says he is still waiting to receive his union card, which the dues are supposed to pay for.
However, SEIU Healthcare Michigan attorney John Canzano told MERC, ”This whole thing about the MQC3 and the home healthcare workers is not universally reviled as the Mackinac Center would have you believe. There are many, many people who think it’s a good thing and would like to see it continue.”
Of the 41,000 people in the “bargaining unit,” less than 7,000 voted in favor of union membership. 80% did not vote. Haynes and Glossop say they either never saw a ballot or could have mistaken it for junk mail.
MERC tabled the issue until after the November election, which includes Proposal Four: The Unionization of Home-Based Caregivers.