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Posted on Wed, Oct 31, 2012 : 6:30 p.m.

MLive Media Group: Vote no on Michigan's Proposal 4 to prevent forced unionization of in-home workers

By MLive Media Group

There are some meaningful proposals that deserve thoughtful consideration on the state ballot on Nov. 6; Proposal 4 is not one of them.

It is a crass grab for union membership that extends into private homes and into the state constitution, and deserves a resounding “no” vote.

Proposal 4 is the continuation of an eight-year, see-saw battle to unionize home health-care workers. Where it stands now: the Service Employees International Union has won a temporary injunction against a state law from earlier this year that declared home health care workers are not public employees, invalidating the union.


Melanie Maxwell |

Now, backers of this proposal want to skip the legislative and judicial processes, and enshrine into the state constitution collective bargaining rights for 42,000 home health-care workers. A state constitution that forces people to join a union? That’s absurd.

Don’t be fooled by ad campaigns that suggest the issue is quality of care for the elderly or infirm. This is about returning to forced unionization of low-wage service workers, many of them single employees of a family arranging care for a loved one.

In many cases, those employees may be family members themselves - paying compulsory union dues for what is a practical act of compassion. That is a ludicrous affront to personal liberties and an intrusion into private homes.

The proposal also would re-establish an enabling body, the Michigan Quality Home Care Council, which would have authority over the in-home workers, and which would purport to provide “training opportunities,” provide a registry that “may refer” qualified providers and ensure financial management services “are available” to participants who hire providers.

All that equivocation obscures the fact that all of those safety nets already exist, through professional associations and community service organizations like the United Way. It would be easier to argue that Proposal 4 creates a false sense of security, by suggesting but not mandating quality measures.

Here’s some more direct and revealing language from the proposal: "Setting compensation standards … and other terms and conditions of employment of individual providers by program participants." That is, a prevailing wage that does not take into account the means of families who hire the workers, what the market will bear or what the employee is willing to take. That, and establishing other work rules within private homes - all enshrined in the state constitution.

All of this fighting over what in reality are personal decisions by caring families dealing with trying situations begs the question: Where is the problem that Proposal 4 is aiming to fix? There isn’t one; this simply is an attempt to swell union ranks and drive up wages.

That' all there really is to Proposal 4, and it’s all bad for Michigan and some of its most vulnerable families. "No on 4" is the obvious answer at the polls on Nov. 6.

Read complete coverage on Proposal 4

This endorsement is the opinion of the editorial board of MLive Media Group, the parent company of The board is made up of the company's executive leadership, content directors and editors who oversee the 10 local markets that make up MLive Media Group.


Nancy Jowske

Mon, Nov 5, 2012 : 2:13 a.m.

As I understand it the MQCCC has been spending over $1M a year for the past five years and was never able to get more than a few hundred care givers to register and even fewer clients to actually use the registry. How will a refunded MQCCC get any better results? In five years how many home care providers were actually trained by the MQCCC? How many went through background checks? This seems a very expensive program with very poor results. And if Prop 4 is passed this poorly performing program can never be defunded again or replaced with something that actually works. NO on Prop 4. Home care providers may need a voice and their clients may need more protection but this solution offers neither.

Jill Barker

Thu, Nov 1, 2012 : 6:03 p.m.

75% of the more than 40,000 home help providers are family members or friends of the senior or disabled person who employs them using Medicaid funds. All become part of a unionized workforce unless they opt out of belonging to the union. Even people who opt out still pay a fee for union representation. Most family members view their participation in the Home Help Program as a way to subsidize the care they give their loved ones in their own homes, rather than viewing it as a career choice or a way to make a living. Unionization may make sense for people who are making a living providing care to unrelated adults, but wages must be approved by the legislature as part of the appropriations process, limiting the bargaining power of the union. One argument for Prop 4 that does not hold water is that it will allow people to live at home rather than having to move into expensive nursing homes. The Home Help Program has been available for more than 25 years and will continue whether or not Prop 4 passes. Home Help services in no way replicate the level of care that is available in nursing homes. There are other Medicaid funded services through Medicaid waivers that provide for much more care than the Home Help Program. Home Help services are invaluable for seniors and people with disabilities, but they are only part of an array of services needed by people with more severe and significant disabilities.

Jim Walker

Thu, Nov 1, 2012 : 4:23 p.m.

I have an extensive background in long term care insurance. One key reason that home care is first choice for our elderly is that it is a LOT less expensive than nursing home care in most cases. Prop. 4 will raise the costs of home care significantly, and reduce the choices for those that need it, making it far less affordable. This is a bad idea. Vote NO on 4. James C. Walker, Ann Arbor, MI


Thu, Nov 1, 2012 : 1:23 p.m.

As the spouse of a caregiver with over 20 years experience, I would like to put my '2 cents' in. Caregivers are compassionate, caring, selfless people. People pay more to send their dogs to doggie cay care. Pay is low, work odd hours, holidays and have the responsibility of caring for someone's loved ones. It's challenging and a thankless job and obviously not doing it for the money. Who's going to pay for the Union Dues? Certainly not the Agency or families the caregivers are working for.

Deborah Gibson

Thu, Nov 1, 2012 : 7:05 a.m.

MLive Media is on the wong side on proposal 4. No one is forced to join the union and it is surely false to persuade voters against this proposal on that basis. The people who are cared for by these workers, unionized or not , are often disabled, temporarily or permanently and therefore had a difficult time getting their voices heard in the halls of our legislature. In this case it seems entirely fair that the people who dedicate their skills, time, compassion and energy to care for those ill or disabled benefit by the state constitution. This would secure both the health worker and the person being cared for. Vote Yes on 4 to safeguard those Michigan citizens who need to hire in-home care takers. They have every right to hire unionized workers protected by our state constitution. What good is our constitution if it doesn't help protect citizens at their most vulnerable life moments? Deborah Gibson Ann Arbor

average joe

Thu, Nov 1, 2012 : 11:08 a.m.

Two points- 1)-No one is stopping anyone to unionized workers. 2)-"unionized workers protected by our state constitution." does not necessarily result in "protect(ing) citizens at their most vulnerable life moments?" This proposal does not belong in our Constitution.


Thu, Nov 1, 2012 : 4:49 a.m.

Vote YES. This is nonsense. The only people who would suffer from this bill passing are the health care and insurance industries. People who care for loved ones at home are not listed as "home health care workers" and would not be charged a union fee. But for the thousands of low-paid home health care workers who are, this is a simple right to be able to stand together as a group, rather than as powerless individuals, to ask for fair pay and reasonable benefits. Unions are not dictatorships - members are free to vote as their conscience dictates. This merely gives them that right.


Thu, Nov 1, 2012 : 4:14 p.m.

Any union I have ever worked in had far more lazy employees that do just enough to not get fired. That type of setting in a place that cares for human lives is scary.

average joe

Thu, Nov 1, 2012 : 11:47 a.m.

"...this is a simple right to be able to stand together as a group," They already have that 'simple' right. And if they were able to gather all the signatures to put this on the ballot, one would think that they could form a union on their own, without affecting the state's constitution.


Thu, Nov 1, 2012 : 3:49 a.m.

Vote yes.


Thu, Nov 1, 2012 : 2:36 a.m.

This proposal is a terrible idea!


Thu, Nov 1, 2012 : 12:33 a.m.

All the pro- Proposal 4 commercials talk about a registry of home health care workers that have passed a background check. In the very next line in the proposal language it says, "Preserve patients' rights to hire in-home care workers who are not referred from the MQHCC registry who are bargaining unit members." This proposal is all about preserving the stream of money going to the SEIU and requiring home health care workers to be part of a bargaining unit. The supporters should have the guts to say as much in their ads.