Illegal arrangement that netted SEIU $29.4 million from the developmentally disabled comes to an end
For Immediate Release
Tuesday, April 10, 2012
Contact: Michael Jahr
Vice President for Communications
Patrick J. Wright
Director, Mackinac Center Legal Foundation
MIDLAND — Michigan’s 60,000 home health care aides will no longer be deemed government employees — meaning they cannot be forced into a government employee union and have dues withheld — as a result of legislation signed today by Gov. Rick Snyder. The next step is for the Michigan Department of Community Health to immediately stop the collection of dues from subsidy payments intended to assist developmentally disabled adults and the diversion of those funds to the Service Employees International Union, said Patrick J. Wright, director of the Mackinac Center Legal Foundation.
“Ending this lucrative charade is terrific news for Michigan’s home health care providers who have seen nearly $30 million skimmed from their payments over the last six years,” said Wright. “The designation of these private contractors and family members as government employees was illegal from the beginning. Michigan’s Constitution explicitly states that only the Legislature can define government employees. No political arrangement or interlocal agreement can change that.
“Now that the law has been clarified, the dues skim must end,” he added.
The arrangement that allowed the SEIU to skim from Medicaid payments to some of the state’s most vulnerable residents was concocted during the administration of Gov. Jennifer Granholm. An interlocal agreement between DCH and the Tri-County Aging Consortium allowed for the creation of the Michigan Quality Community Care Council, which served as the “employer” for what were really self-employed independent contractors or, overwhelmingly, family members caring for loved ones.
Despite the fact that there was no real employer with whom to engage in collective bargaining, the SEIU conducted a union representation vote in 2007. Out of the 44,000 home health care providers in Michigan at the time, only 7,900 voted; 6,900 cast ballots for the union. Although many providers were unaware that a vote was taking place, they nonetheless were forced into the union.
Government-sector unions recently proposed a constitutional amendment to circumvent this legislative fix and restore the flow of the so-called dues. Wright noted that if passed, this proposed amendment would violate the U.S. Constitution since private employee unionization is purely a matter of federal law.
This is the third time in 14 months that an illegal unionization arrangement has been brought to an end. On March 1, 2011, Gov. Snyder issued an executive order ending the illegal dues confiscation affecting tens of thousands of home-based day care providers who had been forced into a government-employee union through a similar scheme. The Mackinac Center Legal Foundation fought an 18-month court battle on behalf of day care owners.
On March 13, Gov. Snyder signed into law a bill clarifying that graduate student research assistants are not government employees subject to forced unionization. The MCLF represented more than 370 such students from the University of Michigan who objected to the illegal unionization effort.
“Government-sector unions are clearly trying to expand the definition of government employees in order to grow their membership and direct taxpayer money into their coffers,” said Wright. “If business owners, the self-employed, family members and students can be roped into such schemes, then grocers, doctors, landlords and anyone else who receives a direct or indirect payment from the government can’t be far behind.”