Opting out of your union: A ‘how-to’ guide for Illinois teachers, public safety workers and other public employees

Mailee Smith

Staff Attorney and Director of Labor Policy

Mailee Smith
/ Labor
June 27, 2018

Opting out of your union: A ‘how-to’ guide for Illinois teachers, public safety workers and other public employees

A recent U.S. Supreme Court decision marked a new era of freedom for public servants in 22 states, including Illinois. Here’s what public sector workers need to do to secure their newly restored rights.

For decades, government workers had to make an unfair, unconstitutional choice in Illinois: Pay fees to a union, or lose your job.

But that changes with the Janus v. AFSCME decision. The court ruled June 27 that paying fees to a union can no longer be a condition of government employment. Now public servants – such as teachers, firefighters and child welfare specialists – can hold government jobs without paying fees to a union.

If you are a government employee who doesn’t like the way the union represents you or the way the union focuses on politics, or if you simply want to keep more of your paycheck to spend on things you care about, you can opt out of the union – but you can take action to more immediately secure this newly restored right.

Under the Janus decision, state and local Illinois government employers should immediately stop deducting member dues or fees from employee paychecks. But because some employers may not act quickly – and because unions may act to delay or thwart such action – it is best that you take steps to opt out of the union and alert your employer to see a more immediate effect. And that may apply to fair share payers as well.

Below is an outline of what you need to do to fully opt out of union fees.

How do I opt out of union fees?

Prior to Janus, the process of opting varied depending on the union, and some unions restricted opting out to certain times of the year.

Because some employers and unions may attempt to follow past procedures, we encourage you to take the following steps:

Step one:  Notify the union in writing that you are resigning from union membership.

Step two: Notify your employer that you are no longer a union member and, therefore, you withdraw any authorization for dues or fees to be deducted from your paycheck.

Some government unions and employers previously placed limits on when you can execute step two and may attempt to follow such procedures. So while you may no longer be a member of the union (step one), your employer can continue to deduct dues or fees – and transmit them to the union – if you do not revoke your dues authorization (step two) in the appropriate time period.

For more detailed information on determining the time frame in which to revoke your dues deduction, visit leavemyunion.com. If you need further assistance, send an email to help@leavemyunion.com or call 630-448-0016.

What if I am already a fair share payer?

If you think you are a fair share payer but aren’t sure, we encourage you to complete both steps one and two. 

If you know you are a fair share payer, you have already completed step one (opting out of the union). But to best ensure your employer stops deducting union fees from your paycheck more immediately, we encourage you to complete step two:

Step two: Notify your employer that you are no longer a union member and, therefore, you withdraw any authorization for dues or fees to be deducted from your paycheck.

For further information, visit leavemyunion.com.

In the Janus case, the Supreme Court has restored First Amendment freedoms that had been denied to government workers for 40 years. But to more immediately secure those newly restored rights, government workers should now take the affirmative steps spelled out above to see a difference in their paychecks.

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