Labor

Mich. Right-to-Work Law Results in Mass Exodus of Home Caretakers from Union

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They've probably stopped clapping.
Credit: SEIU International / photo on flickr

What can we extrapolate about the state of unionized labor in America when 80 percent of one group's members dropped out in a single year once presented the opportunity to do so?

That's what happened in Michigan. That hard-fought right-to-work law gave home healthcare workers the chance to choose whether Service Employees International Union (SEIU) would actually represent them. Home healthcare workers, who are often family members of the patients they serve and sometimes not even actually paid, were forced by the state beginning in 2005 to accept SEIU as their bargaining representative and pay them dues, which were deducted from state Medicaid checks for the people the workers were serving.

Now that Michigan workers have been granted the right to refuse union representation and decline to pay union does, the home care workers are showing SEIU Healthcare Michigan the door. According to federal reports examined by the Michigan-based Mackinac Center for Public Policy, 44,000 home care workers have dropped their membership from the union, leaving just under 11,000 members.

Fox News interviewed a couple who had been forced into the union while caring for their own children and had little good to say about their membership. The husband is a retired Detroit police officer. How bad do you have to be to lose them?

[Patricia] Haynes said that every month, $30 was deducted from their children's Medicare payments, and, while it did not break their bank, they objected on principle.

"They couldn't get me a raise, they couldn't get me more vacation time and they certainly did nothing to improve my children's care," she said. "I'd hate to say it, but in my opinion, they were stealing."

Haynes also says that they are also hoping to help others who had to pay dues.

"We are not anti-union. I just don't understand why we were forced to join because I have two disabled kids," she said. "That we were told that we had to join a union just because we chose to keep our kids at home to care for them."

The Mackinac Center calculates that SEIU has skimmed more than $34 million from the Medicaid payments across the state and will lose more than $4 million in annual dues and fees from the plunge in membership. The Mackinac Center is suing to try to get some of those dues the union has already taken back.

Michigan isn't the only state that has forced caretakers into accepting union representation, and similar requirements in Illinois have led to a Supreme Court case. The court heard arguments for and against forced caretaker unionization in Harris v. Quinn in January. I wrote a summary of the case here, and SCOTUSblog attended and analyzed the arguments presented to the court here. We're still waiting on the decision.

UPDATE: After posting this, Joseph G. Lehman, president of the Mackinac Center for Public Policy, contacted me to clarify that the passage of the right-to-work legislation was not actually what ended the practice of forcing home care workers into SEIU representation. A lawsuit from Mackinac was followed by some complex legislative action and decisions by Gov. Snyder that ultimately ended the practice in a timeline that happens to coincide with Michigan's right-to-work laws.

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58 responses to “Mich. Right-to-Work Law Results in Mass Exodus of Home Caretakers from Union

  1. What can we extrapolate about the state of unionized labor in America when 80 percent of one group’s members dropped out in a single year once presented the opportunity to do so?

    Yes.

  2. “I’d hate to say it, but in my opinion, they were stealing.”

    Hate to say it or scared to say it?

  3. Home healthcare workers, who are often family members of the patients they serve and sometimes not even actually paid, were forced by the state beginning in 2005 to accept SEIU as their bargaining representative and pay them dues, which were deducted from state Medicaid checks for the people the workers were serving

    Yeah, nice try even pretending this isn’t fucking absurd and outright theft.

    “I’d hate to say it, but in my opinion, they were stealing.”

    And there we go. I’d love to hear some union-loving dipshit defend this.

    1. Tony will be here shortly to satisfy your request.

  4. I’d ditch PEF in an instant if the law didn’t mandate my membership as a requisite for working this title at this location. They campaigned against the membership during the last round of negotiations, and don’t provide any actual benefit for the money they keep skimming.

  5. Man, that’s a lot of wreckers.

    1. You should see the KULAKS. I live here, dude….

  6. when given a choice between having some of their money stolen and not having it stolen, people amazingly opted for the no-steal method. Imagine that.

  7. I dont like RTW laws, but slavery is worse.

    There should be no need for RTW laws if unions were voluntary organizations (and that includes an owner voluntarily making his business a closed shop).

    1. The proper thing is to fix the laws wrt unions.

      1. I’m not holding my breath. Things are pretty entrenched.

        This will make you angry.

        It’s so outrageous, that I might have to repost it in the PM links.

        1. Nothing there surprises me.

          It SHOULD make me angry, but doesnt.

    2. ya. RTW, given the current state of things, results in more freedom, not less.

      1. The problem is that while, no net, it may result in more freedom, at the individual level if often results in less.

        The business owner who, for whatever reason I cant fathom, wants a closed shop cant have one.

        And….uh…yeah, I guess that is about it. I dont think RTW laws hurts anyone else.

        1. And that is why, while I oppose RTW laws, they are next to last on my list to get rid of (just before IP laws).

        2. The main benefit in having a closed shop is that everyone will be on the same contract, and you only have one point of negotiation. The downside is you only have one point of negotiation, and the leadership often gets the impression it can ignore the actual wishes and interests of the membership, subbing their wishes and ‘feels’ instead.

          1. I know of one company that has a benefit from it too. They do a lot of big projects, so they need to add employees for periods of time then let them go. When they need welders or metalworkers or whatever, they call the union and get them for the length of the project. Basically, the union as a high quality temp agency for them.

            And that is the kind of thing unions should be doing. Its why Im not anti-union, the concept is good.

            1. Sure, unions are a fine concept. But it’s a concept that seldom fully delivers on the promises it makes and which eventually fails catastrophically almost all of the time. Those aren’t good odds.

          2. The downside of a closed shop is that the union doesn’t care about you individually. If the company fucks you and you lose your job, the union doesn’t care since the guy that replaces you will pay dues just like you did.

            In an open shop the union cares about you. If the company screws you, there is no guarantee the next guy is going to join the union. Moreover, if the union doesn’t protect the employees, the employees won’t join. So an open shop union will really go to the wall for an employee. Closed shop ones generally won’t because they don’t have to.

  8. Purple shirts are the new brown shirts.

    1. Oh. Snap.

    2. So true

  9. There is not a lot of money in being a home caretaker. People who do it tend to be not very well off. A lot of them are married and doing it for a second income. So they don’t have the money to be able to strike.

    If can’t afford to not cross the picket line during a strike, why the hell would you ever join a union? Without the threat of a strike, it won’t do you any good.

    1. And as the story mentioned, a lot of them are doing it for free, for family members. But apparently they still had to join the union.

      My wife is the full time caregiver for her Mom. She doesnt get a paycheck. To have to join a union to do that would be an abuse of the highest level.

      1. The government was making people taking care of others for free pay protection money to the union. God that is evil. Even for them, that is evil.

        But never forget Rob, Progs and Democrats care about us.

        1. Never to forgive, never to forget.

      2. Which is the exact law they passed in Washington State, basically requiring any caregiver to have a certain level of training (courses offered by the union to union members of course). It was sold to the public as a way to improve home health but was really a back door to mandate union membership. I have clients that rely on volunteers and family members to provide care for the mentally disabled. Generally you have a couple of full time certified care givers supplemented by 4-6 volunteers, family members or college kids working for minimum wage. Now they all need to be in the union. Bye bye volunteers, bye bye college kids, hello increased cost of care to be covered by the taxpayers.

    2. If can’t afford to not cross the picket line during a strike, why the hell would you ever join a union? Without the threat of a strike, it won’t do you any good

      My union is legally barred from striking. While I know the immediate reaction from much of this commentariat is “Good, public secor unions are eeevil”, it’s just a job like any other. I don’t like my employer, and argue against the way it spends money like a drunken sailor, but I can’t set that policy. Add in the Union leadership shilling for the governer in negotiations and it’s enough to drive one to drink. (though being drunk on the job can get even a state emploee fired)

      1. PubSec unions are evil.

        1. Don’t mesh with me, I’m pretending to be drunk!

          1. *futilely tries to break bottle to threaten robc with, doesn’t realize it’s plastic*

            1. Bottom-shelf store-brand gin, this early in the morning?

              1. Victory Gin most likely, as he is a member of the Outer Party.

      2. Well, public sector unions are evil. They should be illegal.

  10. I wonder what would happen if we made participation in and payment for Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, Foreign Aid, the Departments of Commerce, Agriculture, and the rest voluntary? I doubt 20% of people who actually pay taxes would write a check for that crap.

    1. They could at least, maybe, give us a list of checkboxes. A you still pay the same amount, but you get to pick where your money goes kinda thing.

      I bet most of the money would go to programs for the children and the poor.

      1. Only if we can forbid it being used to “administer” those programs.

        1. It would be better than it is now.

      2. If we only had a piece of paper that would strictly limit what the government could do, and have the politicians swear an oath to defend it….that would be so awesome!!! Oh crap, they have the constitution. I so forgot about that….I mean hell, the politicians do all the time.

        Terrible idea. Some douche politician will only throw such a list away like they do with the constitution and forcibly extort individuals against their will.

        How many failed experiments of governments are needed for folks to realize it is a failure???? Based off of its performance (violence, thievery, etc) it should never exist again. The military has already seen substantial increases in funds, but has only become more expensive and less effective. Ship numbers are dwindling, botched projects like ddx, ERGM, and so on have resulted in billions wasted, ship delays, cost overruns…. This would all continue and we still would not have kick ass defensive forces, but even more bloat and inefficiency. The only way there could be any hopes of efficiency would be through voluntarism and the private production of defense (and protective services) that would be subjected to the forces of free individuals in a free market.

    2. I predict we would have a kick ass military and a mind-blowing national park system and not much else.

      1. I think you are right.

      2. And you’d still have teathuglitarian wreckers like myself demanding the parks be privatized.

      3. What we have would be better because people would have an interest in it, and would demand better service. If a GI killed civilians in some other country the people would not line up pro-military, anti-military, those who had their money spent on the military would be furious. And, they might withhold their expenditure the next year as a result.

  11. “Home healthcare workers, who are often family members of the patients they serve and sometimes not even actually paid, were forced by the state beginning in 2005 to accept SEIU as their bargaining representative and pay them dues, which were deducted from state Medicaid checks for the people the workers were serving.”

    Sounds like racketeering.

    1. That doesn’t “sound like” racketeering. That IS racketeering.

      1. Well, I didn’t want to make wild accusations, but the FBI really should have been looking into how that situation developed.

        Was there any relationship between the SEIU and the people at the “state” who made joining the SEIU mandatory in 2005?

        Doesn’t the FBI read the newspapers?

        1. the FBI really should have been looking into how that situation developed. … Doesn’t the FBI read the newspapers?

          Shouldn’t that be, doesn’t the FBI report to the Department of “Justice” and Mr. Holder?

          1. Let Holder send that email then.

            Anybody else been following the story about the Benghazi email?

            http://online.wsj.com/news/art…..1320855450

            Be sure your sins will find you out.

          2. Oh, and this happened in 2005.

            Bush’s FBI should have been looking into this. Shouldn’t this have been Robert Mueller’s baby?

            1. Compassionate conservatism at work.

  12. Isn’t Gov Dayton of Minnesota trying to foist similar sh– there?

    1. Well, MN is to the left of MI….on a map, and in politics.

      Soooo….I don’t know…

  13. Our esteemed governor, Mark Dayton, was pushing hard to unionize home healthcare providers. It didn’t fly here.

  14. Ken,
    The FBI is there to bother Italians, instead of going after the politicians who commit extortion, engage in racketeering, and violence against others throughout their careers. It’s just like the secret service going after counterfeit dollars, while over at the fed they counterfeit on a daily basis, thereby debauching the currency and robbing folks while telling them it’s great for the economy………

  15. Wait, what’s with this “Update” bit? Sounds to me it renders this whole article moot. Which no big deal if it does, but some extra clarification is needed.

    1. The article isn’t moot (the huge drop happened) but the headline is now inaccurate. The drop in membership is due to giving the care workers the right to decline representation, but from a different political avenue from what I believed.

  16. UPDATE: After posting this, Joseph G. Lehman, president of the Mackinac Center for Public Policy, contacted me…

    Joseph G. Lehman posted this? The byline says Scott Shackford did.

  17. “Home healthcare workers, who are often family members of the patients they serve and sometimes not even actually paid”

    Huh? they are workers, but they don’t get paid? Something is seriously mixed up here. No, if I were watching my loved one, I would not be in a union, but I would not be considered a worker and unions only cover workers.

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