FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS

For decades, public school employees were forced to make an unfair and unconstitutional choice: Pay money to a union, or lose your job.

But that changed in June 2018 with the U.S. Supreme Court’s landmark decision in Janus v. AFSCME. The court ruled that paying fees to a union can no longer be a condition of employment. Now, public school employees can work for their school district without sending a piece of every paycheck to a union.

There are a lot of voices out there, with many sending conflicting messages. Here’s what you need to know to sort it all out:

  • What is “opting out”?

    Public sector employees who do not want to be members of IFT can leave the union while continuing employment.

  • How much money can I save by leaving IFT?

    IFT dues can cost hundreds of dollars a year. By opting out, you will no longer pay any union dues.

  • Will I lose health insurance or other benefits?

    Alternative associations – such as the Association of American Educators – offer liability insurance and job protection coverage, often at a fraction of the cost of union membership.

  • Why is the Illinois Policy Institute helping people opt out of IFT?

    The Illinois Policy Institute has always been a resource for workers seeking to exercise their rights and choose for themselves whether to associate with a union. We’ve created this website to make the process easy for those who want to opt out of union membership.

  • Why would I want to stop paying union dues?

    Public school employees who have chosen not to be union members have cited a number of reasons for doing so, including the following:

    1. The union spends too much on politics.
    2. The union doesn’t represent its members well.
    3. The family budget is tight, and that extra money could go a long way.
    4. Opting out gives you the freedom to make choices you think are best.
    1) The union spends too much on politics.

    Only a portion of local educators’ union dues are spent locally. The rest is passed up the chain to state and national union affiliates, which can then spend the money any way they choose.

    For example, the Illinois Federation of Teachers and its national affiliate, the American Federation of Teachers, reported spending over $164 million on political activities and lobbying from 2013 and 2017, according to federal filings.

    In the 2016 election cycle alone, contributions to national Democratic candidates from AFT’s political action committee topped $1.7 million, including to former presidential candidate Hillary Clinton; U.S. Rep. Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif.; and U.S. Sens. Tammy Duckworth, D-Ill., and Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y. It spent just $5,500 on national Republican candidates.

    2) The union doesn’t represent its members well.

    IFT sends millions of dollars to its Chicago affiliates, but a relative pittance to affiliates located south of Interstate 80.

    Between 2013 and 2017, IFT reported sending, on average, $3.8 million to Chicago and suburban affiliates – including $2.8 million a year to the Chicago Teachers Union. Meanwhile, IFT sent around $70,000 a year to all of its downstate Illinois affiliates combined.

    During that time period, fewer than $11 million of IFT’s $43 million average annual spending went toward “representational activities.”

    That’s just 26 cents of every $1.

    And half of the money IFT reported as spent on “representational activities” – $5.2 million on average each year – actually paid for officer and union employee salaries.

    Opting out allows you to retain your dues if you don’t think the union is representing you well. And it sends a message that the union needs to work harder to support the workers it represents.

    3) The family budget is tight, and that extra money could go a long way.

    Public employees each pay hundreds of dollars – or more – every year to their unions. That’s money workers earn, but never get to see.

    Opting out of the union allows you to keep more of your hard-earned money.

    4) Opting out gives you the freedom to make choices you think are best.

    Public employee strikes are not uncommon in Illinois. In fact, the state is home to two of the nation’s biggest government worker strikes in the last decade – both by an affiliate of IFT.

    This means public employees in Illinois frequently have to make an intensely personal and stressful decision: 1) Go to work and get paid – and risk fines or other forms of union punishment, or 2) Go on strike – and risk not only your paycheck, but, unbeknownst to many workers, sometimes even your job.

    Because the union has no disciplinary authority over nonmembers, opting out provides you more freedom to make the choice that is best for you and your family.

  • What happens if I am not a member of the union?

    Nonmembers do not pay any fees to the union. But you are still guaranteed the benefits provided in the collective bargaining agreement.

    That’s because decades ago, Illinois’ government union leaders lobbied for the exclusive right to represent all public employees – both members and nonmembers. And that means you retain all benefits provided in your collective bargaining agreement.

    Examples may include the following:

    • Salary and raises
    • Health insurance
    • Pension benefits
    • Vacation days and holidays
    • Overtime pay
    • Seniority
    • Leaves of absence (including sick leave)

     

    On the other hand, nonmembers are not entitled to perks guaranteed to members through the union’s internal rules or membership agreement. Examples may include:

    • Voting rights (on ratification of contract, strike authorization, etc.)
    • Holding union office or representing the union as a delegate to a convention
    • Utilizing union-negotiated discounts (for things such as additional life insurance, health clubs, tickets to events, etc.)
    • Maintaining any liability insurance the union provides, as opposed to insurance provided by the government employer
    • Receiving newsletters or other union publications
    • Attending special union events (such as meetings, picnics, Christmas parties, etc.)
  • What about liability insurance and job protection coverage?

    Alternative entities, such as the Association of American Educators, provide liability insurance and job protection coverage, often at just a fraction of the price of union membership.

    Interested in learning more about how Illinois public school educators can obtain liability insurance and job protection? You can learn more and sign up at the Association of American Educators.

  • Which workers can opt out of the union and stop paying dues?

    Both state and local government employees can opt out of union membership and stop paying dues. This includes teachers in public schools, as well as workers employed by cities, towns, villages, counties, townships and the state.

  • How do I tell my employer and union to stop deducting dues?

    The process is simple: Fill out the form here, and the appropriate letters will be sent on your behalf to both your employer and your union.

  • What if my employer or union doesn’t honor my opt-out request?

    Some employers, influenced by union misinformation, are not immediately stopping dues deductions upon request. And some unions are refusing to honor requests unless they are submitted within a specific time window dictated by internal union rules.

    We believe these obstructions are unconstitutional. If you encounter any barriers in your effort to stop dues or fees from being deducted from your paycheck, please contact us at help@leavemyunion.com.

HAVE ADDITIONAL QUESTIONS?

Feel free to email us at help@leavemyunion.com or call (630) 448-0016.

INTERESTED IN LEAVING YOUR UNION?

To stop your employer from deducting dues from your paycheck click here.

Would you like to share your union story?
Email us at help@leavemyunion.com