Teachers can opt out of paying for union politics

Paul Kersey

Labor law expert, occasional smart-aleck, defender of the free society.

Paul Kersey
/ Labor
August 15, 2014

Teachers can opt out of paying for union politics

As the start of a new school year approaches, Illinois teachers deserve to know their rights. That includes the right to join or not join a union, and the right to support or not support union politics as the political season in Illinois heats up. Teachers unions are one of the most powerful lobbying groups...

As the start of a new school year approaches, Illinois teachers deserve to know their rights. That includes the right to join or not join a union, and the right to support or not support union politics as the political season in Illinois heats up.

Teachers unions are one of the most powerful lobbying groups in Illinois, and their agenda is aggressive. They are vehemently opposed to school reforms that offer any choices to the parents of kids stuck in failing schools. They have made pensions less secure. They support politicians – mostly Democrats, but some Republicans, too – who teachers may not like. (Sometimes union officials even try to run for office themselves.

But teachers shouldn’t be forced to pay for any of that. And thanks to a series of U.S. Supreme Court decisions, there’s a fairly easy process that allows teachers (and any other unionized workers) to limit how much money they must pay to a union. In short, teachers can save money and preserve their free speech by opting out of paying for union politics.

Opting out of union politics means teachers have more money in their pockets, money that they can contribute to causes they believe in, or spend on their own families’ needs.

Opting out doesn’t change teachers’ wages, benefits or working conditions. They are still covered by the union contract. And even union officials should admit that’s fair, because they do still pay the union for their share of the cost of representing teachers.

But exactly how to opt out is something that teachers don’t always get to hear about. Teacher union officials certainly don’t want to talk about it – it undercuts their political clout. School administrators need to make peace with the union, so they aren’t too eager to tell teachers themselves.

That’s why the Illinois Policy Institute is taking part in National Employee Freedom Week. And it’s also why we created teacherchoice.org – because teachers do have choices. And we want teachers to know what they are.

Teacher Choice will show how to opt out of paying for union politics. It even includes a sample letter that teachers can use if they want to exercise that right.

There are hundreds of teachers in Illinois who have opted out of paying for union politics. There are likely thousands of others who want to join them. If that sounds like you or someone you know, be sure to visit teacherchoice.org.

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