In 2009, the Mackinac Center began investigating a scheme where former Gov. Jennifer Granholm worked with a union to force tens of thousands of day care providers to pay money to the United Auto Workers and AFSCME unions.
A few months later, Robert Haynes — a retired Detroit police officer — reached out to tell us that he and his wife Patricia were ensnarled in a similar scheme. Bob and Pat receive monthly Medicaid checks to take care of their two adult children.
“My wife and I have two special needs children,” Bob wrote. “My daughter is 32 and my son is 29. They are 100 percent dependent on us for their care. We get a monthly check to assist with their care. Last year, we were put into the SEIU without our knowledge. In our view, we are not home care providers but parents to our children. We didn’t join the SEIU [but] we now pay monthly dues that are deducted from the check without [our] even having a say. So, yes, this is a money grab that has been forced on people.”
This dues skim resulted in an estimated 80,000 day care and home caregivers being forcibly unionized, with $35 million taken from their paychecks and given to unions.
We could not let that stand.
Over the next few years, the Mackinac Center worked tirelessly on behalf of people like Bob and Pat Haynes. We filed a lawsuit, wrote more than 100 investigative stories and identified dozens of individuals who were harmed. We shot videos, got legislation passed, killed a union- funded constitutional amendment, participated in a U.S. Supreme Court case, gave comments to Congress and saw a new federal rule put into place.
We helped kill these shady unionization deals in Michigan. Today, Michigan’s public sector collective bargaining law does not allow workers to be unionized simply because they receive government payments. Even though we won here, however, unions had put the dues skim in place in other states.
In a 2014 Supreme Court case, Harris v. Quinn, the nation’s highest court held that home care providers do not have to pay union dues. But these two unions and their allies did all they could to keep care providers from knowing that. Some $200 million was being skimmed from home caregivers and given to unions every year across the United States. After hearing from people whose money was unjustly taken in this scheme, the Trump administration established a rule in 2019 ending the diversion of Medicaid payments to unions.
The federal agency that oversees Medicaid said the rule was meant to ensure that caregivers get paid fully and directly. The agency added that it did not wish to prevent or discourage anyone who wants to join a union from doing so.
Unfortunately, the Biden administration wants to reverse the Trump-era rule. The Department of Health and Human Services has proposed a new rule to reinstate the dues skim in many states. This would restart the flow of dollars from caregivers to unions. It would also resume coercion, as few caregivers voluntarily sign up to pay unions.
Within a year of Michigan ending the dues skim, more than 80% of home caregivers left the SEIU Healthcare Michigan union. The union convinced very few families to stay.
The proposed rule would reduce the amount of money going toward families. Most people being paid from these funds care for their own friends and family, and a dues skim takes money that should be available to help the sick and disabled. Those who depend on people outside their family may suffer the most: Directing federal Medicaid money away from its intended purpose is likely to exacerbate the current shortage of home health care workers.
This new proposed federal rule will not affect Michigan, thanks to legal and policy victories the Mackinac Center has helped caregivers win. But we stand by to help litigate and fight this issue across the land, state by state. While every worker should have a choice in whether to join and pay money to a union, no one should be forced to pay dues.