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Court debates union fees for nonunion workers

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WASHINGTON — A broad challenge to public sector unions was met with a mixed response Tuesday at the US Supreme Court.

The case, brought by Illinois workers who provide home health care to Medicaid recipients, could have been argued on narrow grounds. But the workers’ lawyer, William L. Messenger of the National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation, asked the high court to overrule a foundational, 1977 decision and to declare that government workers may not be forced to pay dues to unions to represent them in collective bargaining negotiations if they disagree with the positions the unions take.

Justice Elena Kagan said that was quite a request.

“It is a radical argument,” she said. “It would radically restructure the way workplaces across this country are run.”

Other justices, however, seemed receptive to Messenger’s argument.

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