Illinois teachers’ unions funnel nearly $3.9 million to Madigan

Mailee Smith

Senior Director of Labor Policy and Staff Attorney

Mailee Smith
August 17, 2020

Illinois teachers’ unions funnel nearly $3.9 million to Madigan

Teachers’ unions have provided lots of campaign cash to Illinois House Speaker Mike Madigan, who’s been implicated in a bribery scandal. Teachers who don’t want their money sent to a corrupt system can opt out of the union.

The longest-serving speaker of a state House of Representatives in the U.S. is embroiled in a corruption scandal that just might be his political undoing.

Illinois House Speaker Michael Madigan has been implicated in a federal corruption investigation into whether Commonwealth Edison directed money, contracts and jobs to associates of his as part of an ongoing effort to buy his influence over legislation. Fellow Democrats all over the state of Illinois are calling for him to resign.

But not the state’s government unions. They have too much invested in their financial partnership with Madigan to see him step down.

In the past 26 years, government unions have poured more than $10 million into campaign committees controlled by Madigan, according to records with the Illinois State Board of Elections.

Over one-third of that money – nearly $3.9 million – came from the American Federation of Teachers, the National Education Association, their state affiliates and political action committees.

Unions like to propagate the myth that membership dues aren’t spent on politics. It’s the PAC, not the union itself, which makes political contributions, they claim. If teachers want to contribute to the union’s political agenda, they can do so by submitting a separate donation to the PAC.

But that simply isn’t the case. In 2018 alone, the American Federation of Teachers – not its political action committee – gave $250,000 to Madigan’s personal election committee, according to records filed with the U.S. Department of Labor.

That isn’t how most teachers envision their dues money being spent.

Fortunately, teachers who don’t want to financially support politicians have another option: They can opt out of union membership.

Educators who opt out are guaranteed the benefits provided in the collective bargaining agreement with their district – regardless of union affiliation.

The guaranteed benefits included in a contract may include the following:

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

While liability insurance and job protection coverage may be provided through union membership, teachers have other options in that regard as well.

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 more information or to opt out online, visit or

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