Michigan Childcare Providers Prevail in Forced Childcare Unionization Lawsuit

by Angela Chagnon

The state of Michigan has overturned a 2009 law that created a childcare provider union as a result of a lawsuit brought by the Mackinac Center Legal Foundation.

A November 2010 article in the Washington Post about the lawsuit says:

“[Peggy] Mashke, who has given up about $100 this year [in union fees], is among a small group of home-based providers suing in federal court to break free from organized labor.

The plaintiffs claim they were driven into the union and forced to support it financially even though they work at home, are hired by families and are not state employees.”

The article continues:

“The lawsuit, filed by the National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation, claims that Gov. Jennifer Granholm (D) and her administration cleared the way for the union in exchange for valuable political support from the UAW and AFSCME.”

An article from the Washington Examiner by Monica Way, titled “Union power grab unravels in Michigan” says:

“Beginning in January 2009, about 40,000 child-care providers suddenly found union dues were being deducted from the subsidies the state pays on behalf of low-income families. Subsequently, more than half of them stopped serving such families. Even with this falling enrollment, the union collected about $4 million over 20 months.”

The article goes on to outline various shady practices allegedly done by the United Auto Workers (UAW) union to force childcare providers into the union. All providers were forced to pay the union “agency fees”, regardless of membership.

Providers in Michigan are also suing to get their money back from the UAW. The article concludes, “A related lawsuit by the National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation is seeking to force Michigan’s government to return the $4 million in union dues.”

While union supporters in Michigan had claimed that the unionization effort was merely to “give a voice to childcare providers”, the Mackinac Center’s investigation has shown otherwise

In response to a Freedom of Information request, the following was discovered:

“The Mackinac Center filed a lawsuit against the Department of Human Services after some day care providers complained that they were unionized against their will.

The most revealing e-mails are from Nick Ciaramitaro, director of legislation and public policy for AFSCME Council 25.

His e-mails suggest that the MHBCCC’s true role was not to improve day care conditions but to facilitate union negotiations and the transfer of money from the Department of Human Services to unions.

In a Sept. 13 e-mail, Ciaramitaro wrote about the MHBCCC: “In many ways, this is an experiment with little guidance from statute and virtually no administrative or judicial precedent to follow. … The Interlocal Agreement came about at the recommendation of Michigan AFSCME and the UAW with the support of the Executive Office.”