Michigan Home Care Workers Petitioning to Unionize and Amend State Constitution to Regulate Worker Safety and Training

By Dawson BellDetroit Free Press Lansing Bureau

LANSING – A labor-backed coalition of advocates for home health care for elderly and disabled people said Thursday it has collected more than a half million signatures on petitions to amend the state Constitution to regulate safety and training for home care workers and guarantee those workers’ collective-bargaining rights.

Representatives of Citizens for Affordable Quality Home Care said at a news conference that they expect to submit about 550,000 signatures to the Secretary of State within the next few days. To qualify for the Nov. 6 general election, state elections officials need to certify that the petitions contain at least 322,609 signatures from registered voters.

Critics of the proposal said it is an attempt by Service Employees International Union to turn home health workers — many of them caring for relatives — into public sector union members and skim union dues from their wages.

Backers said the amendment would give prospective home health care patients and their families access to more information about workers’ backgrounds, and allow more of those who need care to remain in their own homes.

Mandating a statewide registry provides “a simple, straightforward way to select care,” said Dohn Hoyle, executive director of the Arc and cochairman of the ballot proposal campaign.

Hoyle said the proposal “isn’t about the union; it’s about the registry.”

But Patrick Wright, of the Mackinac Center Legal Foundation, a longtime critic of the unionization of home health and day care workers whose clients receive government subsidies, said the expressed concerns about patient care are a diversion from the proposal’s real purpose — maintaining SEIU’s cash flow. The Mackinac Center estimates SEIU has collected more than $30 million since Michigan’s home health care workers were unionized almost 10 years ago.

Hoyle denied that allegation, but declined to discuss the campaign’s finances. Donors will be revealed when they are legally required to be, he said, which is still months away, depending on how long it takes to certify the petitions.

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