A $200 million multistate scheme to benefit organized labor started to unravel in 2009, thanks to a Petoskey woman who became the first client of the Mackinac Center Legal Foundation. Sherry Loar provided day care to parents in the state’s welfare-to-work program through her business, Baby Steps Childcare Center. One day, she noticed that the state was withholding union dues from her checks.
She brought the issue to the attention of the Mackinac Center Legal Foundation, and her persistent search for answers led to an investigation that revealed the breadth of the scheme and its flimsy legal justification. Eventually, Loar, along with the Foundation, Michelle Berry of Flint and Paulette Silverson of Brighton, filed a lawsuit that started a process which led to a date at the U.S. Supreme Court.
From left to right: Sherry Loar, Michelle Berry and Paulette Silverson
For decades, organized labor had been shedding membership — and dues money — in the private sector. To counteract this trend, public sector unions creatively, but illegally, worked in states across the country to forcibly unionize new segments of workers, often without their knowledge. In Michigan, day care and home health care providers who received checks through Medicaid became a target.
Together with then-Gov. Jennifer Granholm, unions set out to bring them into their fold by setting up a faux public employer and holding a stealth election. Then, they started taking dues out of the Medicaid checks from more than 100,000 people. This netted three of Michigan’s largest unions new members and at least $8 million in dues every year.
Over the next five years, the Mackinac Center Legal Foundation and its lawsuits drew attention to the issue in Michigan and across the nation. Lawmakers eventually ended the program through legislative action and voters agreed: The unions mounted a ballot campaign in 2012 to continue the forced effort, and it was soundly defeated. The “dues skim” ended in Michigan, and the vast majority of new union “members” left the unions and have not returned.
A similar case was filed in Illinois, and it reached the U.S. Supreme Court, which found that these arrangements violate the First Amendment rights of home-based caregivers. The decision gave hundreds of thousands of people the right to leave their union.
Sherry Loar’s efforts, alongside those of many others, helped lead to greater freedom for so many more people. Every now and again, when one person refuses to accept a wrong, it leads to amazing things.