Michigan child-care workers suing to break free of UAW union

By Ed White
Thursday, November 11, 2010; 7:37 PM

DETROIT - Peggy Mashke tends to 12 children for 12 hours a day at her home, so she was surprised to get a letter welcoming her to the United Auto Workers union.

"I thought it was a joke," said Mashke, 50, of northern Michigan's Ogemaw County. "I work out of my home. I'm not an auto worker. How can I become a member of the UAW? I didn't get it." Willing or not, Mashke and 40,000 other at-home providers are members of a labor partnership that represents people across Michigan who watch children from low-income families. Two unions receive 1.15 percent of the state subsidies granted to those providers, or more than $1 million a year.

Mashke, who has given up about $100 this year, is among a small group of home-based providers suing in federal court to break free from organized labor.

The plaintiffs claim they were driven into the union and forced to support it financially even though they work at home, are hired by families and are not state employees.

In 2006, the UAW and the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME) were formally approved as partners in a union called Child Care Providers Together Michigan. Only 15 percent of the providers voted, but 92 percent were in favor.

The lawsuit, filed by the National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation, claims that Gov. Jennifer Granholm (D) and her administration cleared the way for the union in exchange for valuable political support from the UAW and AFSCME.

- Associated Press

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