Policy: Labor

Michigan elections bureau probes SEIU's role in ballot initiative on unionizing

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Michigan Bureau of Elections officials last week launched an investigation into the Service Employees International Union's financing of a statewide ballot initiative in 2012.

The Detroit News reported Sept. 18 that the state, acting on a complaint from the conservative Michigan Freedom Fund, is looking into whether SEIU used two nonprofits as front groups to launder campaign money to promote the initiative. The union sought to represent those workers.

The state's November ballot last year included Proposal 4, which would have allowed home health care workers to unionize. It was rejected by voters in a lopsided 57-43 percent margin.

Reporter Chad Livengood wrote: "The complaint focuses on a group called Citizens for Affordable Quality Home Care and an East Lansing company called Home Care First Inc. Citizens for Affordable Quality Home Care sponsored the ballot proposal. In campaign finance reports, the group claimed almost all of its donations came from Home Care First."

Home Care First, created in March 2012, eventually poured $9.3 million into Citizens for Affordable Quality Home Care. It was only one week before the Nov. 6 election that Home Care First reported that all of its money came from SEIU. State law requires such disclosures to be made within 10 days of becoming active in a campaign.

The newspaper noted: "Intentionally concealing the source of donations is a misdemeanor, while treasurers who knowingly file inaccurate reports can be fined up to $1,000 or the amount of an undisclosed contribution."

In other words, SEIU, if found in violation of the law, could potentially be fined up to $9.3 million.

The Michigan 2012 election was a bitter defeat for Big Labor, which also backed a ballot proposal meant to prevent the state from ever adopting a right-to-work law. That was defeated by a 58-42 percent margin, a loss so surprising it encouraged state Republicans to pass a right-to-work law.

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