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The value of collective voice

As the inequality gap between the very rich and very poor widens, unions today have become more important than ever for middle-class families. By promoting equal pay for equal work, unions help reduce inequalities and close the wage gaps faced by women and people of color.

Unions also help protect members’ rights and voices in the workplace, as well as the ability to advocate for those they serve.
The IFT provides members with:

A powerful voice on the job
Union workers have the right to negotiate with their employer over things like wages, benefits, and working conditions. Together, you have more power than you would as individuals, whether at the bargaining table or a public forum. Union members use their powerful voice to advocate for important issues like smaller class sizes, academic freedom, safe schools and workplaces.

Strength in numbers
Beyond your local union, you have the backing of 100,000 members in 200+ locals across Illinois, 1.5 million members of the American Federation of Teachers, and more than 10 million members of the AFL-CIO nationally. As one of the largest labor unions in Illinois, IFT has strength in numbers and a history of affecting positive change from the workplace to the Capitol.  

Collective bargaining rights
IFT supports you through this process by which working people negotiate and secure fair contracts with their employers. IFT has helped thousands of members secure economic gains and other improvements for themselves and those they serve.

A contract
IFT members elect their bargaining team, negotiate terms, and democratically vote to approve their collective bargaining agreements (contracts), which provide fair wages, benefits, work rules, and job security. Once bargained, you and your colleagues vote on the resulting employment contract, providing the structure for a positive workplace environment.

Protection & support
The IFT is an experienced partner at the bargaining table and works with members to win both economic gains and other improvements. The union also helps ensure that the terms of that contract are enforced. The IFT provides support to help protect you against employer discrimination, questionable behavior, unfair labor practices, and more. If your employer does violate the contract, the IFT provides assistance to resolve the problem if needed.

Professional resources
IFT provides professional development training to enhance members’ workplace and leadership skills. Through the union’s popular Union Leadership Institute program and other opportunities, IFT members have access to hands-on training at convenient locations around the state on topics ranging from community and political engagement to collective bargaining.

Lobbying and political action
IFT empowers you to make your voice heard by legislators on key issues that impact members, education, and public services. Our experienced team keeps you informed and arms you with the resources you need to influence public policy.

Consumer benefits
IFT and AFT offer members savings on a wide range of consumer benefits and services, as well as scholarship programs to help members, their children, and their students pursue higher education and career advancement opportunities.

IFT keeps members informed and engaged through our website, social media, email alerts, the IFT mobile app (available for Apple and Android devices), our newsletter (Union Link), and other mediums. Our team also works closely with media outlets to ensure our members’ perspective is included in news coverage.


how to organize

Although the organizing process varies slightly depending upon which labor board administers the law covering your workplace, there are three easy ways to form a union and join the IFT.

Voluntary Employer Recognition
During the organizing process, employees have the right to demand voluntary recognition from the employer. Voluntary recognition allows the employer to acknowledge your union without the need to conduct an election.

When at least 30% of the potential members have signed union authorization cards, the union will file a petition for an election with the appropriate labor board.

Card Check
The simplest and most effective organizing option is to use “card check.” Educational and public employees in Illinois can form a union when a majority of employees sign cards indicating they want to form a union.

Contac an Organizer

interested? join us!

If you are a new employee at an Illinois school, college, university, or state agency, you may already be an IFT member! Contact the nearest IFT office to meet your Building Representative and get involved today.

Fill out the form below to learn how easy it is to take the next step and join the IFT!

Get In Touch

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michelle gunderson

Special Education Teacher
Chicago Teachers Union, Local1

We know what's best for our students, and we use the structure of the union to make that become a reality for the children we care for.


Antonio McDaniel

Truck Weight Inspector | Illinois Federation of Public Employees, Local 4408

The union helped us get contractual increases we had been denied for years. Now more than ever, I understand the importance of our union.


Lindsay Weinberg

Old town School of Folk Music

We've known all along that the Old Town School teachers form a strong and passionate community, but joining the IFT allows us to strengthen the school as one collective body.


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