- The Washington Times - Thursday, September 17, 2009

LANSING, Mich. | Sherry Loar and Dawn Ives take care of children out of their Petoskey homes so they were surprised to learn that their state-subsidized checks, which cover day care for some low-income families, now have union dues withheld.

Neither has ever voted for or consented to union membership.

“It doesn’t seem right,” said Ms. Loar, who wrote the governor twice for an explanation - and got none.

“I can’t opt out, because I never opted in,” she said, adding that she isn’t necessarily anti-union.

On Wednesday, the free-market Mackinac Center Legal Foundation, a public-interest law firm at the Mackinac Center for Public Policy, filed suit in the Michigan Court of Appeals, claiming the state’s Department of Human Services illegally took money from day care providers under a “scheme” to force them into a government employees union.

That new union, Child Care Providers Together Michigan (CCPTM), covers an estimated 40,000 home care providers who look after children whose parents receive state child care assistance funds. By the end of 2009, the union stands to receive about $3.7 million in dues, said Patrick J. Wright, director of the new legal foundation, at a press conference held at the Hall of Justice in Lansing.

He said the home-based day care operators are independent contractors who are being turned into government workers, which violates the law.

“If the state is determined to place these day care workers in a union, it needs an act of the Legislature. … If Sherry and Dawn are government employees simply because a few of their customers receive government aid, then doctors, landlords and independent grocers can’t be far behind,” Mr. Wright said.

Ms. Loar and Ms. Ives, according to their complaint, are not employees of the state of Michigan just because they receive payments from DHS. They received notices of the union fees in the mail in January.

Ms. Loar said she was shocked to find out she was forced into something she had no interest in joining. She said she earns about $3,200 a year for taking care of children in her residence and said about $1.50 is now withheld for union dues per month.

“I have one out of 12 that receive assistance, but there are providers that have 12 children, and it’s costing them $100 per month,” Ms. Loar told reporters.

“This is my home,” she said of her workplace. “I think it’s wrong for the union to enter my home. It should stop at my door.”

Added Ms. Ives of the forced payment: “I think it’s absolutely wrong. I wanted to do a job where I am my own boss.”

The CCPTM was organized as a joint venture of the United Auto Workers (UAW) and the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME).

DHS spokesman Colleen Steinman said the agency cannot comment on pending litigation.

The lawsuit is the first from the newly formed legal foundation. Mr. Wright, a law graduate from George Washington University in Washington, D.C., said he expects the case of Loar v. DHS to be “a big battle.”

The Mackinac Center, which accepts no government money and calls itself nonpartisan, had previously filed numerous amicus briefs on behalf of issues including transparency, labor and the Freedom of Information Act, Mr. Wright said.

• Andrea Billups can be reached at abillups@washingtontimes.com.

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