Opinion: Editorials

Granholm didn't clown around when paying off unions

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Opinion,Editorial

If you watched the Democratic convention, you might have thought former Michigan Gov. Jennifer Granholm is some kind of circus clown. Her over-the-top, screamed-out speech and wild gesticulations made her seem like a character from a cheesy 1980s comedy who was slipped an upper just before she went onstage.

Unfortunately for Michiganders, Granholm is no mere clown but their former two-term governor, under whose watch Michigan entered recession years before the rest of the country. According to the U.S. Census, Granholm's Michigan was the only state to lose population last decade. And if you look at what the state's union bosses are doing right now to preserve their Granholm-era privileges, it's no wonder.

The Service Employees International Union is trying to amend Michigan's constitution to restore an unjustified government revenue stream that Granholm created for them -- a stream that author Mallory Factor, in his recent book "Shadowbosses," identified as critical to unions' long-term survival.

Under Granholm, Michigan classified all parents who care for their own severely disabled children at home as state employees if they use Medicaid funds to do so. The designation did not confer any benefits upon parents, but it did allow the SEIU to garnish union dues from their Medicaid checks. Granholm and the unions thus figured out a way to redirect money that should be going to care for the poor to support union political causes instead.

Michigan's new Republican governor signed a bill this year that would end this practice for good. But the SEIU went to court, temporarily blocking that law from going into effect, and then put a measure on the November ballot that would make the Granholm-era status quo permanent.

Marge Faville, head of SEIU Healthcare Michigan, said at last week's Democratic convention that Republicans want to stop her union from skimming poor kids' Medicaid checks because "unions are effective, we make sure Democrats get [into office] and we're going to make sure Obama gets in." That, or maybe because Medicaid should pay for poor people's medical expenses, not pad the bank accounts of union bosses like Faville, who made $155,489 last year and has a five-figure expense account.

To illustrate the effects of Granholm's policy, the Mackinac Center for Public Policy offered the story of Robert Haynes, a retired police officer. He and his wife care for their two children, who suffer from cerebral palsy and must be fed and wear diapers despite being older than 30. The Hayneses suffer the added indignity of having the SEIU deduct dues money from their Medicaid checks every month. The SEIU raked in $6 million last year on the backs of people like them.

Imagine if union bosses could use this tactic to expand their membership and generate revenue streams in all 50 states -- something Factor warns of in "Shadowbosses." After all, millions more people will find themselves using some kind of government health subsidy under Obamacare. How many of those involved in treating them will be forced to pay union dues against their will?

While in office, Granholm established an almost identical dues-skimming arrangement that forced independent day care providers (many of whom serve parents who receive day care subsidizes) to pay dues to the United Auto Workers union. When the matter came before a court, an attorney for that union was forced to admit that unionization "could be imposed on anyone" if the state decided that the union provided "added value." So if you don't think it can happen, look to Michigan.

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