After legislative action, legal action and grass roots support, the illegal dues skim of home-based caregivers by the Service Employees International Union has finally stopped. While the Mackinac Center Legal Foundation continues to fight for a refund for their clients, those people tending to sick family members and close friends need not pay further money to a wrongfully formed union.
Like a horror movie monster, the Service Employees International Union’s scheme to unionize home-based caregivers seems to survive after every defense that would have killed a lesser beast. But at last, it seems, it has been put to rest for good.
It is not surprising that the SEIU would do everything in its power to preserve this dues skim. Since their scheme was implemented in 2005, the SEIU has collected more than $34 million in dues from home-based caregivers – most of whom were tending to family members and close friends.
The scheme began in 2005 with the assistance of the then-Gov. Granholm administration. The SEIU, a self-described “militant” union, worked with a specially created quasi-local agency called the Michigan Quality Community Care Council to set up the MQCCC as a public employer of the caregivers. To receive Medicaid money for the patient, the caregiver is “employed” by the person to whom they provide care.
By claiming that these caregivers where public sector employees who were employed by the state of Michigan or one of its agencies, the SEIU was able to use a novel theory of labor organization that shirked the national labor law’s prohibition of unionizing in-home employees.
The Mackinac Center first shone the light on this program and its underhanded method of stealth unionization. The Legislature stepped in and passed not one, but two measures that made it absolutely clear that these in-home caregivers where not public employees. On the eve of the second of these new measures becoming law, the MQCCC and the SEIU entered into a contract extension and pay-off which would, at least temporarily, block these new laws from having the desired effect of stopping this scheme. The dues skim lived on.
Attorney General Bill Schuette temporarily put a stop to this dues-siphon by the SEIU, but the union sued in federal court. The federal district court judge, at the union’s request, issued a preliminary injunction in order to preserve the status quo until the court had a chance to examine the matter and make a final determination. The Attorney General appealed this preliminary injunction and the Mackinac Center filed an amicus brief in support of this appeal. Meanwhile, the dues skim continued.
The political implications were apparent. In its request for the preliminary injunction, the union baldly stated that it needed to continue receiving the skimmed dues for political purposes. The SEIU went on to sponsor and support Michigan’s 2012 Ballot Proposal 4 which would have enshrined the dues skim in the constitution. Proposal 4 failed, but while the court waited for the election results, the dues skim lived on.
Meanwhile, the Mackinac Center Legal Foundation sought a declaration that the caregivers were never properly public employees and also sought for a return of the wrongfully taken dues on behalf of clients Patricia Haynes and Steven Glossop. Ms. Haynes and her husband take care of their two adult children who live with cerebral palsy. Mr. Glossop takes care of his mother, following her stroke.
The dues skim ended Feb. 28, 2013 with the expiration of the dubious SEIU contract extension, after the passage of new statutes, a federal district court lawsuit and an appeal to the sixth circuit court of appeals, a complaint filed in the Michigan Employment Relations Commission, and a failed constitutional amendment backed by the SEIU. The Michigan Department of Community Health reports that the February Medicaid checks it sent to home-based caregivers were mailed on March 4, and that these were the last checks that will deduct dues for the SEIU.
The Mackinac Center Legal Foundation is continuing to seek a refund of some of the illegal dues for its clients. Meanwhile other states continue to allow the stealth unionization of home healthcare workers, childcare workers and even foster parents. It is clearly easier to prevent such stealth unionization of home-based caregivers than it is to stop it , and the Mackinac Center now monitors all public-sector union certifications.