$35 million union dues-skimming scheme halted in Michigan

This is the sort of thing Senator Mike Lee (R-UT) was talking about when he described our antiquated labor laws as a form of cronyism.  Rarely has there been a more clear-cut case of political connections being employed to siphon money from taxpayers into the greedy hands of the well-connected, with an arrangement viewed by everyone except the beneficiaries and their pet Democrats as a scam.  Fox News lays it out for is:

A Michigan branch of the powerful Service Employees International Union saw its membership and revenues plummet after the reversal of a measure that forced caregivers tending to friends or relatives to be members with their dues paid by those they cared for.

More than 44,000 home-based healthcare workers parted ways with SEIU Healthcare Michigan after learning they did not have to join the union or pay dues, according to reports the union filed with the U.S. Department of Labor. Thousands of the employees were allegedly forced into the union under a plan the SEIU successfully lobbied for that classified even unpaid family members caring for their elderly parents as “home health care workers.” Dues were then automatically collected from the care recipients’ Medicare or Medicaid checks.

“Family members were told they were public employees,” Patrick Wright, director of the Mackinac Center Legal Foundation, a Michigan-based policy group, told “They are not public employees and this was not proper.

“It was an underhanded scheme to get these people in [the union],” he added.

How in the world could such an “underhanded scheme” ever have been put in place?  Jennifer Granholm, that’s how.  The disastrous Democrat governor of Michigan was all too willing to give her union friends some of that sweet crony power.  This is how it went down, according to the Washington Examiner:

In 2005, then-Gov. Jennifer Granholm, a Democrat, created the Michigan Quality Community Care Council — commonly referred to as “MQC3” — ostensibly for the purpose of keeping tracking track of program’s 45,000 participants. However the entity also made it legally possible for the state to claim the participants were actually employees and therefore eligible for collective bargaining.

The following year, Granholm signed a collective bargaining contract with SEIU Healthcare Michigan, after a mail-in ballot in which only 20 percent of the program participants voted. It is not clear how many in the program even knew an election was going on or what the ballot represented.

“This evidence shows the truth about the Granholm-inspired unionization of those in the home help program,” said Patrick Wright, director of the free market Mackinac Center Legal Foundation, which first reported the union’s federal filing. “When given the choice, those in the program didn’t want to give the union a dime.”

Her Republican successor, Rick Snyder, put an end to the scheme, which cut the SEIU in for $35 million in loot extracted from the elderly and disabled since 2006.  As soon as these revenue targets realized they were not compelled to be part of the union scheme, almost all of them stopped paying their “dues,” and the overall size of SEIU Healthcare Michigan plummeted by 80 percent… in a single year.

The SEIU didn’t give up this money without a fight.  The Mackinac Center Legal Foundation notes that the union was fined $200,000 after secretly bankrolling a 2012 effort to lock their health care dues-skimming program into the state constitution.

Some of the forcibly-unionized are filing lawsuits to get their stolen money back, as reported by Fox News:

Retired Detroit police officer Robert Haynes and his wife Patricia say they were forced into the union after they were considered public employees because they cared for two adult children with cerebral palsy in their home.

“Our children’s case worker had come for their usual six-month visit and he had told us that we were now part of the union,” Haynes told “I was like, ‘What?’”

But Haynes and her husband weren’t concerned.

“I didn’t think much about it,” she said. “Then my husband heard the news that the law was reversed and we realized they were doing nothing for us.”

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 reasons you were “forced to join” despite having two disabled kids are greed, Democrat Party politics, and cronyism, sir.

Mr. Haynes is very gracious to say that he’s still not “anti-union” after getting fleeced by a corrupt union and its political allies, but it’s fair enough to say that condemning this scheme does not require blanket disdain for unions or collective bargaining.  It’s the addition of political power that made this work.  There’s nothing wrong with organized labor when everything about it is voluntary – a test that no public-employee union can pass, but every private-sector union should.

As we can see from the results of Gov. Snyder’s reforms, very few people would have considered participating in this union scheme if they weren’t pushed into it.  “You pay us $X in exchange for Y services” is a business proposition.  “You pay us $X, and quit bugging us about doing anything for you, because you don’t have a choice” is something else altogether.  And when the government is actually skimming the money right out of benefit checks…