Chicago City Wire

Chicago City Wire

Friday, December 13, 2019

Substitute teacher who opted out of Chicago Teachers Union saw no benefit in membership


By Robert Hadley | Feb 25, 2019

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According to a substitute teacher for the Chicago Public Schools, opting out of the teachers' union was no big deal.

A substitute teacher for the Chicago Public Schools interviewed by Chicago City Wire, who was granted anonymity due to fear of retaliation, said in over the course of her two years substituting in Chicago classrooms, no one contacted ever contacted her from the Chicago Teachers Union.

"I don't know who the [union] leadership was," the substitute teacher said, speaking on condition of anonymity. "I've never been contacted. I don't even know if dues were taken out of my paycheck."

This substitute teacher is one of many public-sector employees no longer required to pay union fees if he or she does not belong to the union. In the June 2018 Janus vs. AFSCME case, the U.S. Supreme Court invalidated decades of precedent stemming from a 1977 ruling that allowed government unions to charge fees for representing non-members in collective bargaining negotiations.  

Just months after SCOTUS handed down the ruling, the Illinois Policy Institute reported the Chicago Teachers Union had lost the financial support of some 300 Chicago Public Schools workers.

According to the Chicago Tribune, substitute teachers like the one interviewed for this article, are covered under the Chicago Teachers Union contract, and thus would have been required to pay union fees, even if they resisted officially joining the union.

"I believe I got a letter in the mail saying I could [join opt out], so I didn't," the teacher told the Chicago City Wire. "I don't know if union fees were taken out of my paycheck, but if there [was], and I didn't have to pay those, then, yeah [I would opt out]."

The practice of hiring substitutes has come under scrutiny after a Chicago Tribune story uncovered a sharp rise the number of substitutes used today versus 20 years ago. Substitutes are often used to cover for full-time teachers during sick days or training, the article stated.

Jesse Sharkey, vice president of the Chicago Teachers Unions, told the Tribune that the union-negotiated contract applies to substitutes, who are eligible for partial benefits. Sharkey attributed the increase in substitutes to a policy change preventing teachers from accruing sick leave, prompting them to use up their leave time.

Public sector union members pay on average $700 a year in union dues. Those who opt out are no longer required to pay those dues.

The Illinois Policy Institute has published a guide on their website and created Leave My Union for other public sector employees looking to opt out of their unions.

Are you leaving your public sector union? 

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Organizations in this Story

Chicago TribuneIllinois Policy InstituteChicago Public SchoolsChicago Teachers Union

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