Grayslake school employees who don’t want to strike: You have options

Mailee Smith

Senior Director of Labor Policy and Staff Attorney

Mailee Smith
November 8, 2019

Grayslake school employees who don’t want to strike: You have options

Not all teachers and support staff at Grayslake Community Consolidated School District 46 want to be on strike. Those who are not members of the union have more options – and more freedom – in deciding whether to walk the picket line.

Teachers represented by Grayslake Federation of Teachers and support staff represented by Grayslake PSRP have walked out on strike – leaving school out of session for more than 3,700 students in Grayslake Community Consolidated School District 46.

Both unions are currently in the middle of four-year contracts ending in 2021. But both contracts included a provision that would leave open negotiations on pay raises for the final two years of the contracts. The district includes nine schools, 256 teachers and about 180 support staff in suburbs north of Chicago.

For each of the next two years, the school district has offered a 3.8% raise for teachers with up to 18 years of experience and a 3% raise for teachers with more than 18 years of experience, according to the Daily Herald. All support staff would receive a 3.8% raise under the district’s offer.

The union’s last public demand calls for 4.6% salary increases for teachers with up to 18 years of experience and 4.1% salary increases for teachers with 19 to 32 years of experience. The union representing support staff demanded a 4.6% raise across the board.

The district has provided childcare and breakfast and lunch resources for parents of children affected by the strike.

But what about the teachers and staff who don’t support the strike?

They have options – including opting out of union membership.

Here are some answers to questions teachers and staff might be asking, as well as information on how to opt out of union membership.

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: What happens if I cross the picket line as a nonmember?

A: Nonmembers have more freedom than union members in choosing whether to honor a strike. The union has no disciplinary authority over nonmembers, so it cannot penalize them for working during a strike. It also cannot force nonmembers to be at the picket line for any amount of time or provide support for the strike in any other way.

Q: What happens if I cross the picket line as a union member?

A: The union can penalize members who do not honor the strike through fines or other penalties.

Q: What happens if I go on strike as a nonmember?

A: Nonmembers who go on strike will be subject to the same potential repercussions as members who strike.

Not only are striking workers not paid during a strike, but under Illinois law, a government employer can replace striking workers. Depending on the type of strike, employees might not immediately be reinstated to their old jobs when the strike ends

Q: How do I opt out of the union?

A: Fill out the form on Letters will be sent to the Illinois Federation of Teachers and District 46 on your behalf, telling them you are resigning union membership and demanding that union dues stop coming out of your paycheck.

Q: What if the union or school district 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 IFT – are refusing to stop deducting dues unless requests are submitted within a specific time window dictated by internal union rules. For IFT, that window typically closes on 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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