How Chicago Teachers Union members can stop forced political donations

Mailee Smith

Senior Director of Labor Policy and Staff Attorney

Mailee Smith
February 24, 2023

How Chicago Teachers Union members can stop forced political donations

The Chicago Teachers Union has drawn criticism from members for its handling of member money and use of dues for political purposes. Teachers who don’t like the way CTU uses their money can opt out and join alternative organizations.

The Chicago Teachers Union is once again in the news, and for all the wrong reasons.

While proficiency levels of district students continue to plummet, the union’s leadership is focusing on politics and trying to get one of its own paid employees elected mayor.

Now the union is coming under fire for allegedly borrowing dues money and funneling it to its political fund to ensure its chosen candidate, Brandon Johnson, has what he needs ahead of the Feb. 28 mayoral election.

CTU’s funding of politicians isn’t new. Since 2010, the union has spent over $17 million on state and local elections.

But some members are questioning CTU’s failure to get approval from its House of Delegates before transferring $415,000 from its union operating funds to its political action committee, according to a report by the Chicago Tribune.

CTU claims the money will be repaid, but regardless the loan itself might be illegal. It also claimed it would repay a loan in 2015, but failed to do so.

CTU members who are tired of the union’s lack of accountability have options. They can opt out of union membership in August and have the option of joining an alternative organization that provides liability insurance and job protection coverage.

CTU members can opt out in August

Public school employees in Illinois don’t have to be a member of a union – or pay fees – in order to keep their jobs.

What’s more, nonmembers are guaranteed all of the benefits provided in the CTU contract.

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 teachers retain all benefits provided in the union’s 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 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.)

CTU has historically required teachers to opt out during the month of August in order to have their dues stopped.  Visit to learn more and obtain the opt-out paperwork.

CTU members can get liability insurance and job protection coverage from other organizations

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.

For example, CTU lists its 2022-2023 annual dues for full-time teachers as starting at $1,242. AAE, on the other hand, would cost the same teacher $198 for the year.

Visit Association of American Educators to learn more and sign up.

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