Supreme Court hears public union dues argument

Jan. 21, 2014 at 3:29 PM
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WASHINGTON, Jan. 21 (UPI) -- The U.S. Supreme Court appeared divided Tuesday as it heard a challenge to a rule that forces non-union state employees to pay partial union dues.

Illinois is among a number of states that pay home-care workers from Medicaid funds. During the last decade, at the state's direction, more than 20,000 home-care workers in Illinois have voted to organize, and have won wage increases by joining the Service Employees International Union, the Chicago Tribune reported.

Some non-union home-care workers in the state objected on First Amendment grounds of free association. The National Right to Work Foundation, an anti-union group, sued Gov. Pat Quinn and the SEIU, saying they conspired to reclassify home-care providers as state employees to collect more union fees, the Tribune said.

Key to the dispute is the 1977 Supreme Court ruling in Abood vs. Detroit Board of Education that said non-union members would have to pay for public union negotiating costs, which reach provisions that benefit all employees, union and non-union.

The high court has said, however, that non-union workers cannot be forced to pay for a union's political activities.

On Tuesday, the Obama administration supported the 1977 ruling before the justices, but a lawyer for the National Right to Work Foundation, William Messenger, urged the high court to reverse the 1977 precedent.

Messenger's argument not only drew fire from the court's four liberal justices, but also conservative Justice Antonin Scalia, reported.

Justice Anthony Kennedy, a key swing vote, offered Messenger support, the report said.

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