Lansing More union-supported measures eye ballot

By Tim Martin

Associated Press

LANSING, Mich. (AP) -- The latest union-supported proposal that could be headed for Michigan's November ballot would put collective bargaining rights for some types of home health care providers in the state constitution.

The Board of State Canvassers on Monday approved the size, lettering and other physical features of petitions that soon could be circulated by a group called Citizens for Affordable Quality Home Care. The proposal, which campaign treasurer Dohn Hoyle said is supported by the Service Employees International Union, aims to put features of what now is called the Michigan Quality Community Care Council in the state constitution.

The program assists the elderly and disabled with in-home personal care services, providing them an option to avoid nursing homes. Supporters say the proposal also would ensure quality and training of service providers.

But some Republicans in the Michigan Legislature have been critical of what they consider stealth, unilaterally imposed union dues collection from those who serve as care providers in the program.

A bill approved last year by the Republican-led House would exclude those care providers, along with others who receive government subsidies in their private employment, from the definition of "public employee." The legislation, which could prevent union dues from being collected through the program, is awaiting a vote in the Republican-led Senate.

The bill's sponsor, Republican Rep. Paul Opsommer, of DeWitt, said Monday the proposed constitutional amendment appears to be an effort to circumvent his proposal.

The proposed amendment would give "participant-employed providers" limited collective bargaining rights similar to those for some types of public employees, while also putting the home care program in the constitution. Supporters would need to collect at least 322,609 valid voter signatures to put the proposal before voters in November.

Also on Monday, the Board of State Canvassers approved the petition forms to be circulated by a broader union coalition that wants to enshrine collective bargaining rights in the state constitution. The Protect Our Jobs campaign could serve as a pre-emptive strike against a possible right-to-work movement in Michigan, while potentially undoing some laws that already have been approved by the state Legislature related to collective bargaining.

The Protect Our Jobs measure also is planned for the November ballot, if enough valid voter signatures are collected.

Published: Wed, Mar 21, 2012