The Supreme Court will hear arguments about forced unionization among government workers on Tuesday in a case that could greatly curtail powerful labor groups.
At issue is an Illinois law crafted by imprisoned former Gov. Rod Blagojevich and enforced by his successor Pat Quinn that forces home healthcare workers, including family members caring for relatives, to pay union dues.
The state claims that the caregivers are government employees since patients receive taxpayer dollars through Medicaid and Medicare. But the issue is more complicated than who is signing the checks, according to lawyers for the National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation (NRTWLDF), which is spearheading the challenge.
"The Illinois law only defines them as employees in terms of unionization and no other rights at all," said NRTWLDF lawyer Bill Messenger. "This is a scheme for compulsory lobbying."
The caregivers do not receive liability insurance coverage or retirement benefits that other government workers are entitled to, according to Messenger. If the court holds that state governments can force any secondary beneficiary of taxpayer dollars in the union, "vast swaths of the population" would end up paying union dues.
"All doctors or nurses who care for Medicare patients would have to join a union by that logic," Messenger said. "What unions are looking at is trying to attach themselves to any kind of government funding."