Chicago teachers who don’t want to fund CTU leadership’s politics have options

Mailee Smith

Senior Director of Labor Policy and Staff Attorney

Mailee Smith

Vincent Caruso

Community Manager

January 30, 2020

Chicago teachers who don’t want to fund CTU leadership’s politics have options

Leaders of Illinois’ largest local teachers’ union received swift blowback after their latest push into public politics. Members dissatisfied with the priorities of their union’s leadership deserve to know they have other options.

The Chicago Teachers Union made another commitment to politics on behalf of its members when on Jan. 29 it made a formal endorsement of incumbent Kim Foxx in the race for Cook County state’s attorney.

While a state’s attorney’s race may seem like an unusual preoccupation for a teachers’ union, it isn’t CTU’s only puzzling move in recent memory.

In 2019, the CTU sparked outcry from union members by sending a delegation to Venezuela. While not funded by CTU, the delegation traveled under the CTU banner and publicly praised the Venezuelan government and its authoritarian President Nicolás Maduro. Maduro’s regime has been accused in United Nations reports of grave human rights violations, including using “death squads” to kill more than 6,850 people.

“We didn’t see a single homeless person,” one member of the delegation memorably tweeted, extolling the country with a poverty rate that exceeded 90% in 2018.

CTU members are within their rights to question the priorities of the union to whom they pay their hard-earned money. For any number of reasons – including inadequate representation, disagreement with CTU leadership’s political activities or a desire to keep more of their paycheck – some teachers may wish to break ties with their union.

Those teachers have options. Here are answers to frequently asked questions and other information for teachers who wish to resign membership with their union.

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

A: 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, regardless of membership status.

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 contracts, strike authorizations, 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.)

Q: What about liability insurance and job protection?

A: 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.

Q: How do I opt out of the union?

A: Fill out the form on Letters will be sent to CTU and CPS on your behalf, telling them you are resigning union membership and demanding that union dues stop coming out of your paycheck.

Q: What if CPS or CTU doesn’t honor my request to opt out of the union?

A: You can opt out of union membership at any time and protect yourself against union punishment – such as fines – should you choose to cross a picket line.

But some employers, influenced by union misinformation, are not immediately stopping dues deductions after employees opt out of union membership. And some unions – including CTU – are refusing to stop deducting dues unless requests are submitted within a specific time window dictated by internal union rules. For CTU, that window is Aug. 1 to Aug. 31.

We believe it is unconstitutional for employers and unions to continue deducting dues from nonmember paychecks. If you encounter any barriers in your effort to stop dues being deducted from your paycheck or have any other questions regarding opting out of union membership, you can contact us at

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