“I have worked at Northeastern Illinois University as a maintenance laborer for about seven years. My department does any labor at the university. We actually really like the university, itself, a lot. There are a lot of good people here, but we didn’t feel well-represented by our union.”

“The biggest issue we had was that we’re mainly a physical labor-intensive department, so the issues that they had in other departments, which were office-related, didn’t apply to us.”

“It not only made us and our issues more difficult to relate to for the other members, but the union leadership politicized many issues. In one case, we brought up our wages and how underpaid we were compared to other state universities, but they weren’t willing to do the homework that we did.”

“We called other universities, spoke with other departments, but the union wouldn’t help us. Our department’s been cut due to years of public funding cuts and more cuts due to the COVID-19 pandemic. We used to have 14 employees and we’re down to six.”

“When the union wouldn’t help us with our wages, we started to learn more about the laws in Illinois including the Janus v. AFSCME case. Union leaders would say they didn’t like what Janus was doing, but we saw the merit to the other side saying, ‘This is your money. You should be able to decide where your money goes.’”

“You didn’t get a choice as to whether you join this union or not. You basically sign into it with your title and the job. But we felt that you should have a choice about your money. You shouldn’t be forced to pay dues to this union if you don’t want to be a member but want to work. So, the Janus v. AFSCME decision passed, and then we tried to actually get out of the union.”

“Most people literally have no clue how much power the unions have. People think that their employer has more power than the unions. So, in our situation we were shocked when we went to our employer and asked them to stop taking dues, but they told us we had to go through the union.”

“The university is our employer and should have absolute power over our paychecks. I don’t trust the union with our wages. Then, we found out there is only a 10-day period all year to ask them to stop taking your dues, and if you miss it you have to wait a whole year.”

“The other guys in my department all educated themselves, and once they realized how much power the union had, it was a no-brainer to opt-out. I feel like if people were more educated on that structure, it would help a lot. It’s just a big red flag.”

“However, while we can revoke our membership and not pay dues, we still have to be represented by AFSCME at the bargaining table.”

“We were able to get our dues stopped, saving me $600 per year, but by law we still have to be represented by the union. If we had the choice to leave, we would leave, but the Illinois labor law gives less choice to the worker. The only way we can get out of the union is if we campaign against the union to all of the union’s members and convince more than 50% of the membership and the collective bargaining unit to switch to a different union. That’s literally the only way we can get out. It is pretty ridiculous.”

“If there was an opportunity for me to have a job where I didn’t have to join a union, I’d be happy with that job, too.”

“Most importantly, I want active competition in the marketplace. I don’t like the very anti-competitive structure unions are engaging in. It hurts its members and anyone else in the marketplace, whether it’s the employer or the employee.”

“I see it as a lose-lose situation for everyone.”

Nick Poplawski
Maintenance laborer
Chicago, Illinois