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Go here to read more about the day care unionization case.
"In Michigan because of the partnership between AFSCME and the governor's office, this means that 45,000 new AFSCME members, quality child care providers, will be on the ground providing care to children. That is great for our state."
Michigan Gov. Jennifer Granholm spoke these words in a 2008 speech to the 38th international convention of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, known as AFSCME. What made these words different from other comments is that Gov. Granholm did something she apparently hasn't done publicly since - that is, acknowledge her office's involvement in unionizing the state's home-based child care providers.
In the speech, Gov. Granholm said, "We are partners in making that happen."
This unionization was strange: It involved independent contractors and business owners - not the people are usually placed in a public employees union. Questions about the arrangement first arose in September 2009, when the Mackinac Center Legal Foundation filed a lawsuit to stop the illegal diversion of so-called "union dues" from providers' state government subsidy checks to the union claiming to represent them. Now a federal class-action lawsuit is challenging the legality of the unionization itself.
Even though this stealth unionization landed her administration in both state and federal courts, Gov. Granholm has been remarkably absent on the legal front and silent with the press.
Granholm spokesperson Liz Boyd has suggested the governor's office and the Michigan Department of Human Services simply complied with a unionization process properly carried out by the Michigan Employment Relations Commission.
But a close investigation finds ample evidence to back up what Gov. Granholm said in her speech to AFSCME - that her administration was involved in arranging the unionization from the start.
In 2006, the Michigan Home Based Child Care Council was born out of an "interlocal agreement" between the state Department of Human Services and Flint-based Mott Community College. The MHBCCC was critical to the unionization effort since it provided the union with an "employer" to organize against.
A Mott spokesman says that in late 2005, Lt. Gov. John Cherry called Mott President Dick Shaink to talk about welfare reform legislation. Cherry then asked if Mott "would be willing to become involved in training child care providers."
Further discussion took place during March and April 2006 conference calls between Mott and several members of the governor's legal staff.
Mott entered into the interlocal agreement later that year.
In a letter sent to Shaink and the DHS director dated Sept. 1, 2006, Gov. Granholm stated her approval of the agreement based on the recommendation of the Attorney General.
While the state purportedly tapped Mott for its expertise in early childhood education, college officials say since then, neither the DHS nor the Michigan Home Based Child Care Council has asked the college to provide any training.
The interlocal agreement between DHS and Mott requires the MHBCCC to adhere to a union collective bargaining agreement, something Mott officials say was not discussed, even though child care union organizing efforts by AFSCME and the UAW were in full swing. Both unions listed these organizing activities in their government filings in 2005 and 2006. The new union, called "Child Care Providers Together Michigan," is a creation of the UAW and AFSCME Council 25.
Lt. Gov. John Cherry used to work for AFSCME. Once he got into state government, his legislative district included Genesee County, where Mott Community College is located.
Incidentally, Lt. Gov. Cherry's wife, Pam Faris, was named to the Mott Community College board of trustees this past February.
ASFCME itself indicates that the governor was involved with this scheme. A 2007 AFSCME newsletter mentions Michigan child care providers and states that "with the help of recently re-elected governor Jennifer Granholm, they now have collective bargaining rights."
The Mackinac Center also uncovered e-mails from September and October 2009 in which a union lawyer acknowledges a connection between the governor and the unions.
The e-mail stated, "The interlocal agreement came about at the recommendation of Michigan AFSCME and the UAW with the support of the Executive Office." And, "The Lt. Governor's office, as part of the current Administration have an interest in these issues as well."
Yet media inquiries to the governor's office have gone virtually unanswered. The Livingston Daily Press & Argus did manage to get a Granholm spokesperson to defend the unionization, but that has been the exception.
During nearly eight years in office, Gov. Granholm has held numerous news conferences to announce job creation or new initiatives.
Mackinac Center Legal Foundation Director Patrick Wright says given that this entire process was supposed to help more than 40,000 people, the governor's silent treatment is curious.
Wright said: "She's a trained lawyer, and she was AG for eight years and a politician. So she knows what she can and can't say legally, and she also knows what she can and can't say politically. And so her silence here speaks a fair amount of volume. Since the case has been filed, she's done her best to at least imply that she was just a passive bystander to this whole thing and that the bureaucracy had led to these people being unionized. What this video shows is that she was an active participant, that she engaged in activities with AFSCME and with the UAW to make these home-based day care providers into union members and leading to the siphoning of dues from their paychecks.
Kathy Hoekstra is a communications specialist at the Mackinac Center for Public Policy. The Mackinac Center for Public Policy is 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.