SEIU 'Dues Skim' and U-M Research Assistant Bills Brought On Proposal 2

Issues brought to the forefront by the Mackinac Center cited by UAW President as reasons for ballot proposal

Issues brought to the forefront and pursued by the Mackinac Center for Public Policy played a key role in bringing about Proposal 2. That's what United Auto Workers President Bob King claimed in a recent interview.

Proposal 2 on the 2012 ballot was a debacle for unions. It was solidly rejected by the voters, 58 percent to 42 percent. In the wake of the ballot proposal's defeat, Michigan became a right-to-work state.

Earlier this month, King was interviewed by the Metro Times and gave his version of what led to the unions putting Proposal 2 on the ballot. Excerpts from that interview were published the week of Feb. 3-8.

By late winter 2012, the unions had come to believe Gov. Rick Snyder couldn't be counted on to stop legislation the unions opposed, King said. He said the unions came to this conclusion after Gov. Snyder signed a string of measures into law — namely, legislation to outlaw the home health care dues skim, stopping the unionization of University of Michigan research assistants and banning automatic dues deductions from teachers' paychecks.

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"[T]here was a whole series of legislation that he (Snyder) said was not on his agenda that he signed,” King told the Metro Times. “There were [U of M] research assistants being denied collective bargaining rights. There were home health care workers, who were given some really strong assurances that collective bargaining rights would not be taken away from them. And that’s much more serious, honestly, than right-to-work; denying them the right to collective bargaining. And yet, after … a long process and tense discussion with folks and after [having] been given that commitment, the Legislature passed it, it went to the governor’s desk, he signed it.

"Then we had the dues deduction for the teachers,” King continued. “And so, again, that was petty and vindictive and he said it wasn’t on his agenda. And when it got to his desk, what did he do? He signed it.”

King said he brought up Gov. Snyder's signing of these measures when he spoke to the governor about the union moving ahead with Proposal 2.

“So we had this history, and when the governor and I talked about the petitions, he said he’d rather not have it come up,” King said. “And I cited the things he'd already signed. I said, 'Will you publicly commit not to sign right-to-work?' And he would not do that.”

The Mackinac Center took the lead on the issues of the attempted unionization of U of M graduate student research assistants and the home health care dues skim.

King’s remarks show how the willingness to take on tough issues can lead to positive results, said Patrick Wright, senior legal analyst for the Mackinac Center.

“We just did what was right,” Wright said. “But the unions weren’t used to people challenging them. Their reaction led to a chain of events that ultimately made Michigan a better place.”

The Mackinac Center Legal Foundation filed a legal brief on behalf of students opposed to the unionization. The brief asked the Michigan Employment Relations Commission to stand by its 30-year policy that the research assistants were students, not employees, and therefore not eligible for unionization.

Attorney General Bill Schuette joined the Legal Foundation lawsuit and Gov. Snyder announced that he was opposed to the unionization. Senate Majority Leader Randy Richardville, R-Monroe, sponsored the initial bill to outlaw the unionization. It passed, but got hung up in a dispute over “immediate effect” in the House. A duplicate bill, House Bill 4246, reached Gov. Snyder's desk and he signed it into law on March 14.

In 2005, the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) targeted Michigan's share of the federal Home Help Program as a potential dues-producing source. Under the federal program, elderly patients, the disabled and others can be cared for at home instead of being placed in nursing homes or other institutions.

The SEIU pulled off the dues skim by taking advantage of Michigan's first unionization that was conducted through the mail. As a result, roughly 44,000 home-based caregivers have had SEIU dues deducted from their Medicaid checks ever since. The union refers to these caregivers as home health care workers.

The Mackinac Center and Michigan Capitol Confidential were virtually the only entities to investigate and report the facts about the home health care dues skim. Included among those facts was the reality that no collective bargaining was involved, most home-based caregivers are relatives or friends of those who require the home care, and report on the depth of deception used to bring about the forced unionization in 2005 when Jennifer Granholm was governor.

In 2011, the Michigan Legislature attempted to end the skim by defunding the dummy employer, the Michigan Quality Community Care Council, which was used for the forced unionization. That failed when the SEIU gave the dummy employer money to keep it going. Gov. Snyder signed Senate Bill 1018 to outlaw the “skim” on April 9. That meant the SEIU “dues skim” eventually would end, but legal action by the union has continued it for an additional year.

The Mackinac Center Legal Foundation has taken legal action to get the last year of dues restored to the home-based caregivers. The status of that effort is still pending.

State officials say they expect the Medicaid checks sent to the home-based caregivers on March 4, will be the last ones with SEIU dues deducted.

King announced what later became Proposal 2 on March 2. That was actually before Gov. Snyder signed any of the legislation King cited in the interview. However, by March 2, Gov. Snyder had already said he opposed the unionization of U of M research assistants and it was clear he planned to sign a bill ending teacher dues deductions.

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See also:

UAW President Bob King Admits Proposal 2 Was About Right-to-Work


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