DHS Declines to Defend Merits in Mackinac Center Lawsuit

Motion to dismiss is procedural, technical; fails to address how state can force independent contractors into a union, Center legal analyst explains

MIDLAND — The state’s response to a Mackinac Center Legal Foundation lawsuit against the Department of Human Services and its director shows that the agency is currently unwilling to defend its practice of collecting “union dues” from home-based day care center owners, Legal Foundation Director Patrick Wright said today.

“The defendants’ response shows that they lack the courage of their convictions,” said Wright, who filed the suit Sept. 16, 2009, on behalf of two day care providers. “Instead of defending their unconstitutional actions or attempting to justify the violations of our clients’ rights, the agency is attempting to have the case dismissed on procedural grounds. Their motion says nothing about whether it was proper for the agency to deduct union dues from subsidy checks that provide day care assistance to low-income parents.”

In 2006, “Child Care Providers Together Michigan” was certified as representative of child care providers who serve families that receive state subsidies for child care, and in 2009, the DHS began diverting “union dues” from the providers’ subsidy checks to the union. The Mackinac Center Legal Foundation, a newly formed public interest law firm, filed suit in the Michigan Court of Appeals on behalf of two home-based child care providers, Sherry Loar and Dawn Ives, both of Petoskey. Some of the children cared for by Loar and Ives are covered by the state child care subsidies, but most are not.

One consequence of the DHS’s actions is that $3.7 million of state child care funds are annually transferred to CCPTM in the form of union dues. The lawsuit seeks to block the collection of union dues from Loar and Ives on the grounds that they are not state employees, but rather independent business owners who are not subject to unionization.

“DHS’s decision to allow unionization of independent business owners through an interlocal agreement with Mott Community College really is the key dispute of this whole case, and the agency has yet to explain how what it did was legal. We expect that the court will not find any procedural faults and that this case will proceed to the merits.”

The Mackinac Center Legal Foundation’s response to the motion to dismiss in the case, Loar vs. DHS, is due by Oct. 28, 2009.

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