Tens of thousands of Michigan home-based day care providers will no longer have mandatory “union dues” taken from their state subsidy checks following a 19-month legal and public relations campaign waged by the Mackinac Center Legal Foundation. On March 1, the Michigan Department of Human Services announced it would cease withholding the money, ending a practice that had diverted nearly $4 million into union coffers.
The idea of a child care union that would “represent” people providing day care out of their own homes was conjured up by two union allies of the Granholm administration — the United Auto Workers and American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees — in order to get a cut of subsidies meant to help low-income parents obtain child care while they went to school or work. An agreement between the DHS and a community college created a government “employer,” the Michigan Home Based Child Care Council, which allowed the faux union to have the DHS start withholding the “union dues.”
The Mackinac Center inaugurated its Legal Foundation on Sept. 16, 2009, with a lawsuit targeting this unionization scheme. MCLF Director Patrick Wright brought the suit to the Michigan Court of Appeals on behalf of day care owners Sherry Loar of Petoskey, Michelle Berry of Flint and Paulette Silverson of Brighton. The case remains before the Michigan Supreme Court. Wright said he is reviewing his clients’ legal options.
The decision to end this scheme was announced by DHS Director Maura Corrigan, a former justice of the Michigan Supreme Court. Corrigan acknowledged the crux of the Center’s case, noting that “these providers are not state employees,” and because of this, the DHS would “cease collecting union dues.”
Throughout the lengthy legal process, the Center communications team worked hard to ensure a win in the court of public opinion. Michigan media provided extensive written and broadcast coverage, and editorials universally condemned the scheme. The story quickly spread across the nation, with Center Op-Eds appearing in the Weekly Standard and The Wall Street Journal. A video series by Center Communications Specialist Kathy Hoekstra prompted a John Stossel report on Fox News and coverage by talk host Rush Limbaugh.
The MCLF clients, as well as other day care providers throughout the state, were delighted. “The Mackinac Center has done beyond a great job in securing freedom for home day care providers in Michigan,” said Paulette Silverson, a client who runs a day care in Brighton. Sherry Loar, who first brought the scheme to the Center’s attention, was ecstatic that the union could no longer claim to represent her in her own business. “I’m so happy they’re out of my home, I wish I could do a cartwheel!” Loar said. “One voice can make a difference — and I didn’t believe that.”