Like the original unionization, the current relationship between the MQC3 and the SEIU is questionable. As described earlier, the Michigan Legislature responded to public attention on the unionization of in-home caregivers by ending state funding of the MQC3.
This did not shut down the MQC3, however. Instead, the MQC3 began to receive funding from nongovernmental sources. Notably, in January 2012, the MQC3 had approximately $22,000 in the bank, of which the SEIU had provided $12,000 — the majority of the MQC3’s funding.
In other words, the union was now funding the ostensible employer. The union was bargaining with an entity that it was now funding. With this relationship between the SEIU and the MQC3, the MQC3 and SEIU entered into a contract extension on April 9, 2012 — one day before the effective date of Public Act 76, the second law clarifying that in-home caregivers were not public employees. Because of the federal court ruling, the contract extension therefore made the dues collection arguably legal, despite the new state law, until Feb. 28, 2013 — a date after Proposal 4 would take effect if it were approved by Michigan voters.
This contract extension, however, has all the appearance of a conflict of interest.[*] The SEIU needed the MQC3 to keep the dues flowing. The MQC3 needed the SEIU to provide operating monies to continue its existence. Under such circumstances, with money changing hands, the ability of the MQC3 to bargain effectively on behalf of taxpayers and the SEIU’s ability to bargain effectively on behalf of in-home caregivers is in doubt.
Thus, the unionization of in-home caregivers has proved problematic on several fronts — in the creation of the putative public employer through a questionable interlocal agreement, in the doubtful jurisdiction MERC claimed to certify the union, and in the subsequent relationship between the putative public employer and the union.
[*] The Mackinac Center Legal Foundation has alleged that this contract extension was in fact a conflict of interest and is seeking a MERC ruling granting compensatory damages for in-home caregivers of $3 million in back dues and agency fees. Michigan Employment Relations Commission Case No. C12 I-183 & CU12 I-042 (Patricia Haynes) and C12 I-184 & CU12 I-043 (Steven Glossop).