SEIU allowed to keep millions in ‘dues’ money it siphoned away from Medicaid in stealth unionization, court of appeals rules

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By TED O’NEIL

MIDLAND — The Michigan Court of Appeals has ruled that tens of thousands of home-based caregivers in Michigan who were illegally forced into a union and had more than $34 million in ‘dues’ taken from them by the Service Employees International Union have no ability to get that money back. The Court also ruled that the Michigan Employment Relations Commission does not have a platform for allowing class action matters.

The Court of Appeals granted the SEIU’s motion to dismiss the case, noting that the union paid back to Patricia Haynes and Steven Glossop, clients of the Mackinac Center Legal Foundation, more than they requested.

“The SEIU overpaid our clients to prevent a full review by the court,” said Patrick J. Wright, vice president of legal affairs for the Mackinac Center for Public Policy. “It was pretty obvious the SEIU did not want the court to take a close look at its tactics. Unfortunately, that means the union gets to keep the money it took from the other approximately 39,998 people who were caught up in this scheme. We’re going to review our legal options and look at other possible ways to vindicate all of these victims.”

The Michigan Employment Relations Commission in 2005 inappropriately allowed and administered a union certification election for home-based caregivers — despite them not being public employees. MERC on April 11, 2013, dismissed an administrative action brought by the MCLF on behalf of Patricia Haynes and Steven Glossop that sought to have the 2005 union certification declared illegal and have a portion of the dues returned. The MCLF in October 2013 filed an appeal at the Michigan Court of Appeals over MERC’s April 2013 decision not to correct its own mistake for allowing some 40,000 people to be wrongly forced into a public-sector union.

The stealth unionization scheme began during the administration of former Gov. Jennifer Granholm when a shell corporation, the Michigan Quality Community Care Council, was created by an interlocal agreement between the Michigan Department of Community Health and the Tri-County Aging Consortium. Gov. Rick Snyder signed legislation in April 2012 making it clear that these home-based caregivers were not public employees and therefore could not be forced into a government union. That was later upheld by an opinion from Attorney General Bill Schuette.

The Court of Appeals also said it dismissed the case since the law had changed and brought the stealth unionization to an end, claiming “to allow appellants to proceed with this appeal to vindicate the possible interests of third parties would improperly allow them to litigate abstract questions of law in which they are no longer interested parties.”

The SEIU sent checks to the MCLF on behalf of Haynes and Glossop after the U.S. Supreme Court ruled June 30 in Harris v. Quinn that forced unionization of home-based caregivers nationwide was unconstitutional.

“The SEIU saw the writing on the wall after that decision and voluntarily offered to repay our clients because they did not want the courts digging deeper into their nefarious actions. Throughout the entire course of this litigation, the SEIU has refused every opportunity to defend the role of the Granholm administration and itself in concocting this scheme and taking millions of dollars away from some of our state’s most vulnerable residents,” Wright said. “They always ran away from that issue.”

(Ted O’Neil is Media Relations manager for the Mackinac Center for Public Policy, a research and educational institute based in Midland.)