Mich. AG: State can't collect union dues from home help workers

Jessica M. Karmasek May 29, 2012, 12:30pm



LANSING, Mich. (Legal Newsline) - Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette said last week that the State cannot collect union dues from independent health workers.

In an opinion Thursday, Schuette said the State has no authority to withhold public employee union dues from the payments issued to home help providers through the Michigan Medicaid program.

"Private individuals do not transform into public employees simply by participating in taxpayer-funded programs like Medicaid," the attorney general said in a statement Friday.

Schuette's office was responding to questions raised by state Rep. Paul Opsommer, R-DeWitt, over the enforcement of Public Act 76, which was signed into law by Gov. Rick Snyder in April.

PA 76 amended the Public Employment Relations Act to exclude from the definition of "public employee" those who receive a government subsidy for private employment.

Opsommer asked whether the dues withholding must cease under the terms of PA 76 or for "other legal considerations irrespective of the statutory change."

"There is no legitimate or legal basis upon which (the Department of Community Health) may continue to withhold union dues from providers' payments," wrote Richard Bandstra, Schuette's chief legal counsel.

Opsommer called the attorney general's opinion a "welcome relief," given the unwillingness of the courts to weigh in on the matter.

"The ongoing uncertainty has meant that more than $30 million in Medicaid money has been diverted from the disabled citizens it was intended to help," the lawmaker said in a separate statement Friday.

"Outside meddlers can't use a magic wand to re-categorize the sons and daughters of Alzheimer's patients into public employees, and these taxpayer dollars need to go towards keeping loved ones out of nursing homes, not lining the pockets of shameful opportunists."

State Sen. Dave Hildenbrand, R-Lowell, agreed.

"Home help workers are not public employees, and union money should not be taken out of their Medicaid payments," he said in a statement. "This was a crafty deal put together behind closed doors that should end immediately."

Hildenbrand had sponsored Senate Bill 1018, which amended PERA and became PA 76.

Opsommer had sponsored the House version, HB 4003.

From Legal Newsline: Reach Jessica Karmasek by email at jessica@legalnewsline.com.

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