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Home-based day care owners in Michigan are "being
forced to join something that [they] don't need to be a part of."
"I think I've had enough with the state
coming in. I meet all of their licensing requirements, I attend their
trainings, I file paperwork on time. Everything they've asked for, I've given,
and now they want more. Where does it end?" asked Baby Steps Childcare owner
Sherry Loar, who has been nurturing children in her Petoskey, Mich., home since
"I've gone from just a small home business
to now I'm an LLC — in baby steps, which is where the name came from," Loar
says. "You couldn't have wrote a business plan for how beautiful this has
Loar's friend and neighbor, Dawn Ives, also
runs a day care out of her home, a career move she says is the best thing she
ever did. "I love these kids. I love them with all my heart. I never thought I
could love anybody else's kids, but they really do grow on you," Ives remarked.
But in December 2008, things changed for
Loar recalls: "I had gotten the mail. I
opened a letter that said that the day care had become part of some union, and
we would be paying union dues. And I'm going, what? So it came out as a total
According to Ives: "Sherry had called me
and she brought it to my attention that we were in a union. And I said, 'What
do you mean I'm in a union?' And she said, 'Well, didn't you get that little
postcard?' And I said, 'Well yeah, I got it, but I believe I threw it away.'
And I thought that was the end of it."
Loar and Ives say they're both long-time
union supporters, but this time is different.
"I'm not opposed to unions; everything has
a place," Loar states. "But when we enter my door, this is my home."
Ives agrees: "I am not anti-union: I grew
up in a union family all of my life. It was great for my dad — it worked
wonderful for him — but it doesn't belong here."
Mackinac Center Senior Legal Analyst
Patrick Wright says a newly formed organization now claims to serve as a government
employee labor union for Loar, Ives and more than 40,000 other home child care
providers like them. The organization bases its claim on a 2006 vote of just
5,900 of those 40,000 providers, a vote that Loar and Ives say they never knew
Wright, however, questions the steps taken
prior to that vote. "It appears fairly clear that the government just created a
'shell corporation,' that they needed to create some sort of employer for these
people to be able to organize against," Wright says. "So they grabbed — it
appears randomly — grabbed Mott Community College, took it and created this
'interlocal agreement' and created the Michigan Home Based Child Care Council."
The council was created in part by the
Michigan Department of Human Services. That department administers government
subsidy payments to private child care providers, such as Loar and Ives, who happen
to care for a child from a low-income family that qualifies for government
child care subsidies. It is through these subsidy checks that union dues are
withheld — 1.15 percent of every check.
"The next time I received my co-pay check, they
took out union dues!" Loar says. "I don't know, but I can't take money out of
an employee's paycheck without their signature. How can the government take
money out of a paycheck? I actually work for my parents and my children. I do
not work for the state."
"Like, 83 cents on one check that I'm being
paid," Ives explains. "Why should I pay 83 cents for something that I'm not
going to benefit from, I didn't vote for, and they're not my employers. The parents
are my employers."
According to Wright: "Sherry and Dawn have
a few people that — some of their customers receive government aid. And the
mere fact that they do doesn't make them government employees."
That fact is one reason that Wright and the
Mackinac Center Legal Foundation are now defending the rights of Loar and Ives not
to have their business income diverted to a union that claims they are
Wright says: "You can't have two government
agencies suddenly conjure up the power to change the law just because they're
working together. So you can't have the Department of Human Services and Mott
Community College just all of a sudden change the law. What that requires is
things that it always requires, which is the legislative branch to enact a law
and the governor to sign it. And that did not happen here."
Loar and Ives say they're willing to take
the case as far as it needs to go.
"This is America," Ives says. "They're
forcing me to do something that I don't want to do."
"If they can do that to me in my home... Somehow
if you can do a little of something in America, we tend to do a whole lot more
of it," Loar comments. "Where does it end?"
According to Wright: "If the government can
unionize somebody like Sherry and Dawn, they can unionize doctors, they can
unionize landlords, they can unionize small grocers. All of these people who
have clients that receive some sort of government aid. And that should worry us
Kathy Hoekstra is a communications specialist at the Mackinac Center for Public Policy, a research and educational institute headquartered in Midland, Mich. Permission to reprint in whole or in part is hereby granted, provided that the author and the Center are properly cited. Click here for more on the Mackinac Center lawsuit, Loar v. DHS.
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