Punishing the Good Neighbor

Lisa Snyder has watched (without compensation) a five-year old kindergartener for her widowed neighbor and a seven-year old boy for another neighbor for a short period of time as they wait for the school bus. The Michigan Department of Human Services (DHS) made national news by demanding that she become a licensed day care provider. But what has largely been overlooked is that if Ms. Snyder were to go through the licensing process, she would thereby become a member of a purported government employees’ union.

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Failing to obtain a day care provider’s license is a misdemeanor that can lead to a $1,000 fine and 90 days in jail. The licensing process itself is onerous. And should someone looking to assist their neighbors without compensation complete the process, there is a surprise waiting – mandatory membership in a so-called union and perhaps someday a requirement to pay union dues.

This “unionization” is the subject of the Mackinac Center Legal Foundation’s recently filed lawsuit, Loar v DHS. In that case, plaintiffs seek to stop DHS from taking out so called union dues from state subsidy payments meant to assist low-income parents in part because people who run home-based businesses should not be forced into a government employees’ union just because some of their clients receive state aid. Right now, the union only seeks dues as a percentage of every subsidy check. But any licensed provider, whether or not they have a client that receives a state subsidy, is included within the bargaining unit. At some point, the union might seek dues from providers even when there is no subsidy payment. Thus, were she to become licensed, Ms. Snyder could end up owing union dues despite the fact that she doesn’t charge her neighbors and receives no payments from the state.

Who knew being a good neighbor could be so complicated?