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The state can make almost anybody its employee?

Earlier I posted a link to an amusing piece from the Mackinac Institute canvassing the Nanny-knows-best advice contained in many State of Michigan publications and web sites.

This link is more serious and, legally speaking, truly bizarre.

The State of Michigan created a shell corporation for the sole purpose of unionizing self-employed daycare owners throughout the state. Some state bureaucracy partnered with the apparently randomly chosen Mott Community College and declared this new entity to be the "employer" of all of the state's licensed daycare owners, including all the ladies who run daycare centers out of their own homes. By doing so, the State of Michigan created the possibility of having all these "employees" unionize against the employer. Since evidently there is no quorum requirement for union votes, a vote of only a minority of the newly minted "employees" was sufficient to create a new union, and now the women running daycare out of their homes are being charged union dues, much to their own surprise.

How is this possible, you ask? Well, evidently the state gives money to low-income families to subsidize their daycare in part. It is from these checks that the new union dues are being deducted. Realize, please, the insanity of this: If accepting money that the state gives to someone for a partial subsidy of a service allows you to be declared an employee of the State (and Mott Community College, whatever that has to do with anything), then every store owner that accepts WIC or food stamps could wake up one morning and find that he has been made an employee of the state's shell company without his own knowledge or consent. Tellingly, if this sort of thing is legally possible, without even any special legislative action, it would also presumably apply to school principals and teachers at schools that accept tuition vouchers. By this principle, the schools could be effectively turned into state entities instantaneously and their employees into state employees--a frightening thought.

What exactly the State of Michigan gets out of this, other than the sheer heady sense of power in knowing that it can force self-employed small-business owners to be its employees without their consent or the consent of their elected representatives, is still a bit of a mystery to me. I can only guess that somehow the State of Michigan is profiting from the union dues and that the state is behind both the new "employer" and in the new "union," but that is the purest conjecture.

In any event, this obviously must not be left unchallenged. The Mackinac Institute has taken on the case with its new legal defense team, and I have some hope that our state courts will strike this move down for the naked and illegal power play that it is.

Comments (24)

The State is an abstraction. The better question is "What, and how, does this benefit the interests of the actual persons who pulled it off?"

Well, I agree, but clearly they had to have the cooperation of officials working for the State of Michigan. Why they did it is somewhat beyond me, but I hope the Mackinac people fry their bacon for them real good.

Theodore Dalrymple: Intrusions

Well, yes, but it was officials (persons) who did the cooperating and coordinating. And they did so because they perceived it as advancing some interest or other of their own.

What exactly the State of Michigan gets out of this

A boot stamping on a human face, forever.

Ilion, that story is amazing. The Dalrymple one. Ick. And potentially taxable, yet. Sheesh. What's next? Taxing the little old lady next door because you shovel her walk in the winter?

Government money always comes with strings. That's why at Hillsdale we don't permit students to bring government money with them. Aid to the student is considered aid to the school. If the school takes the money, the government will tell the school who to enroll, who to hire, and what to teach.

Pay your own way. The only alternative is loss of freedom.

A boot stamping on a human face, forever.

It will more likely be a Birkenstock or some kind of loafer that is doing the stamping.

Hillsdale is wise, Michael, and I'm no fan of school vouchers, etc. But I must say that this particular type and degree of "strings attached" is not something I think the daycare owners could have predicted and is certainly something that must be fought. To actually declare them employees without their consent when they are obviously self-employed. I mean, they are probably still paying taxes both at the state and the federal level as self-employed. If they are employees, why isn't this shell company paying their social security tax? Talk about the state trying to have it both ways! This has got to be illegal.

It's immoral ... but "legal" and "illegal" is whatever that folks with the guns say it is.

I assume all this comes about because union membership is compulsory in Michigan.

Union membership can be compulsory anywhere but happens to be especially popular in Michigan. We don't have a right-to-work law, that's for sure. But the whole thing should be irrelevant for self-employed people like these women.

Today an employee, tomorrow a servant.
It ought not to be forgotten that to the liberal[?] mind we are not really & fully human. That to the extent we exist it is to be managed, controlled, herded, pushed, and disparaged. That we as an undifferentiated mass are stupid, reactionary, retrograde, and inevitably, racist.
The mark of Cain that besmirches our being is our blindness, utter unawareness, to the blessings of the State, whose promise and benefice is always here but yet never fully realized.
It takes a breed whose only mark of superiority is devotion to this image, and hail themselves as "progressive" because of it, to elevate themselves above this hopeless mass.
In doing so the illusion and self deception offers a cover to a more atavistic motive, the joy in exercising a destructive power.

We are in for some interesting times.

Ilion, I just saw your comment: I really meant "illegal." I could be wrong, of course. It's been known to happen. :-) But I suspect a bluff on the part of the State of Michigan (and Mott Community College??). I really find it very implausible that these women can be legally turned into "employees" by fiat in this fashion *without legislative action* merely on the basis of their accepting these checks from their customers. I think the Mackinac folks took it on because they expect a win. We also have what is called a "conservative" State Supreme Court in MI, which means that they tend to take a dim view of creative interpretations of the laws and the state constitution.

"Government money always comes with strings," Michael Bauman writes.

True enough. But this doesn't mean that any "strings" need to be particularly strong or intrusive, as these are.

I've noticed that libertarian sentiment can actually result in indifference to government power grabs.

Some libertarians are so satisfied in their splendid isolation that when confronted with an issue like this they just repeat their mantra of ideals, blame the victim for not being a libertarian, and then wander off. Instead they should be aiding the legal and political fights necessary to keep a non-libertarian government from getting worse.

The strings are there for a reason, and the reason is rarely one with which I agree because that reason almost always entails government making a purchase: me.

My objection has nothing to do with libertarianism, which I reject for all the reasons articulated by my old friend Russell Kirk.


but "legal" and "illegal" is whatever that folks with the guns say it is.

You forgot "and the badges."

And then they went came for the Church...


(Pardon the interruption, Lydia, but I wanted you to see this if you haven't already)

Mike T: "You forgot "and the badges.""

Badges are meaningless without the guns.

Badges are meaningless without the guns.

Try enforcing the law without badges in the US. You'll get gunned down in a New York nanosecond by the police. If there is anything they hate, it's competition.

I get it ... you're *intentionally* misunderstanding my prior post.


Directly related to this story is a similar battle that just took place between parents who take care of their disabled children and the State's effort (backed by SEIU) to "unionize" the parents:


As you can see, the link above is from a guy who is running for Governor, so it doesn't get into all the details of the fight, but if you Google the story I'm sure you'll find some more detailed news. I'm convinced by stories like this one more and more that unions (especially public sector unions -- see the recent Fred Siegel article in the "Weekly Standard" for more) are a serious menance to a healthy public sector and growing economy.

That's very interesting, Jeff. It appears that in that case the parents themselves were receiving money directly from the state, and the state tried to use that fact to treat them as employees and part of a public-sector union. That's bad, and I'm glad they won. The case here that the Mackinac Center is fighting is even somewhat more outrageous, because the money is going to the low-income families to be used for daycare, so it is coming to the daycare owners only indirectly. We're all familiar with programs like this--food stamps and the like. They've been around for decades and decades, and no one would ever have thought that such an indirect voucher-type program could literally be used to declare the private business owners who are selected by the low-income people to provide the service to be state employees.

But I agree that in general there appear to be multiple movements afoot to draw the cord tight and fulfill all the worst fears some of us expressed long ago about acceptance of public dollars, whether directly or indirectly.

I get it ... you're *intentionally* misunderstanding my prior post.

The guys with the guns are just about anyone in the U.S. The guys with the guns and the badges are the street gang which gets to tell you what is illegal and what is legal.

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