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Here is a little sweetheart deal in Michigan that should make your blood boil. It illustrates the charming nature of government unions, in case you didn't already know about that.

Under ex-Governor Jennifer Granholm, the state government (without legislative authorization), in cahoots with the Service Employees International Union, created a faux "employer" entity for all the home-based caregivers in Michigan who take care of disabled people and receive state funds through Medicaid. They were then, whether they consented or not, designated as "employees" of this "employer," the "employer" actually being a sock puppet for the SEIU, brought into existence to give the SEIU someone to pretend to "bargain" with. Once this little charade was set up, the SEIU was able to skim off a percentage of the Medicaid funds from the abruptly unionized home caregivers as dues for its "services." Let's get clear in our minds that plenty of these "employees" of the state are actually parents and other family members taking care of disabled relatives in their own homes. The shell state "employer" provides no benefits and cannot give its employees a raise. In fact, since the Michigan legislature moved to defund it, it isn't even operated with Michigan funds. It is phony from start to finish. At one point the union even propped up its "bargaining partner" with some funds of its own! The entire arrangement exists for the evident and sole purpose of allowing the SEIU to grab some of the funds intended for caring for disabled people in their homes in Michigan.

The legislature has tried in every possible way to kill this arrangement, but it is like a zombie--it just keeps coming back. The union even got a federal judge to order its continuation (which is to say, the continued flow of skimmed Medicaid dollars into its pockets) on the grounds that the union had an "existing contract" with the "employer" and that the attempt to stop the arrangement (under a law declaring that these home caregivers are not state employees) would violate the constitutional provision against the impairment of contracts. The Mackinac Institute raises the startling possibility that the "employer" could negotiate a new contract at any time with the union and thus perpetuate the arrangement indefinitely with the help of federal courts.

One hopes this "night of the living dead sock puppet" scenario would not be legally possible, and the union itself seems a tad worried--perhaps by the defunding. So the union is now ratcheting things up a notch by getting Proposal 4 on the Michigan ballot on November 6 to enshrine their dirty little deal in the Michigan State Constitution.

If you are a Michigan voter and you are even a minimally sensible person, you know what to do about Proposal 4 on November 6. If you don't live in Michigan, well, now you know more about those caring people in the SEIU. And you can keep your eyes open for similar scams coming to a state near you. Maybe your legislature can do something preemptive before they get an "existing contract" going that will take money from Mom and Dad caring for a disabled son.

This is scummy.

Comments (7)

If I were a federal prosecutor in this district, I would regard this arrangement as manna from heaven for my career. This would be a target rich environment...

But a federal judge stopped the state prosecutor when the state prosecutor ordered them to stop taking the money out of the Medicaid checks, pursuant to a state law clarifying that the home caregivers are not state employees. So I guess the federal judge's obiter dictum would be treated as trumps by a federal prosecutor as well, wouldn't it?

The entire arrangement exists for the evident and sole purpose of allowing the SEIU to grab some of the funds intended for caring for disabled people in their homes in Michigan.

I think that says it all. This program is nothing more than a slush fund. Unfortunately, it likely would require federal law enforcement to approach it like that.

Lydia, I am not sure you have all the facts present. From what I can find, the payments from which dues are collected are payments for services (rather than disability payments), and the services are arranged directly through MQCCC. So somehow or other it looks like MQCCC is operating as an intermediary and is functioning in such a way as to bring these individuals into receipt of payment for services. If an individual is taking care of mom and isn't getting state (or federal) money to provide such care, or if they are getting money but that arrangement doesn't pass through MQCCC, they are not involved in any way.

Be that as it may, I doubt that that federal judge's ruling can survive all the various levels of attack that can be laid on the situation. Slavery, violation of minimum wage, employment law, contract law, corporation law, tax law, all could be brought to bear. I haven't looked at the ruling yet, but from the description the decision maybe was a stay or injunction to maintain the status quo pending further determination, not a substantive ruling on the issues as such. That the SEIU managed to get a judge in its back pocket is hardly a new way of doing things. I personally tend to think that all mandatory union membership arrangements violate both the 1st (freedom of association) and 13th (slavery) Amendments. Seems to me that there is little to no legitimate basis for "exclusive representation" provisions in union agreements as well.


Having just had my girls out of school for a week thanks to the sanctimonous and self-serving arguments of the Chicago Teacher's Union holding sway for a week, this story just makes my blood boil.

Look, as a free market guy, I'll never be in love with unions. But as someone who reads and understands history, at least I can sort of empathize with labor's fight for better working conditions and wages against big profitable industries. But when it comes to this story (and public sector unions) we aren't talking about big, profitable industries -- we are talking about parents who want to care for their disabled kids!!! Or other relatives who want to take care of sick or disabled family members. Where is the profit that should be going to "worker"???

The union, considering unionism's own history, should be ashamed of itself.

Tony, the people were receiving this *very same* money before the MQCCC ever existed! The money is for the "service" of taking care of the disabled person--for example, it might be a disabled son or daughter. As far as I understand it, the state always had a system set up for paying people for doing this care-giving, but they were not previously regarded as employees. The MQCCC had no new role except to provide the "other side" of a necessary pair (union/employer) so that the caregivers could be deemed employees, the SEIU could be their "employee union," and the SEIU could have a contract with their "employer." That's it.

Yes, of course, if the parents aren't receiving any money, this issue doesn't apply to them. I didn't mean to imply otherwise, and I don't think anything I said did imply otherwise. But as far as "getting money but the arrangement doesn't pass through MQCCC," good luck with that. The Mackinac Institute has researched this one out and made it pretty clear that a whole bunch of people were just swept willy-nilly into this "employee" relationship with the state in return for the money they were previously getting. It's not as though the MQCCC was set up as providing some kind of benefit to potential caregivers and they went and chose to use it as an intermediary because it was so helpful to them, but could have gotten their Medicaid caregiver money un-skimmed in some other fashion! Why do you think defunding the MQCCC was part of what the legislature did in an attempt to shut the whole thing down?

So, no, as far as I know, I don't have my facts wrong on those points.

However, what you say about the judge's ruling does appear to be correct. That is to say, it keeps the current "contract" in place at least until February. It is interesting to me that even Mackinac doesn't seem to know what is going to happen then. Weirder still, the SEIU made as an argument for keeping their current "contract" going (with the dues skim) that they need the money for election activities. How's that for a crazy argument?

Jeffrey, exactly! This is absolutely a lose-lose situation for the "worker." As Mackinac points out, the faux "employer" in this case cannot give them a raise or benefits. There is no actual negotiation going on. Nothing. The _only_ difference that this makes is that the union gets some of the money they were previously getting! It's blatant theft from which no one benefits but the SEIU. There isn't even room for a pretense that they are doing something _for_ the "employees."

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