At the AFT Convention in Boston last summer, the IFT was recognized for our leadership in organizing. Our accomplishments saturated the “Organizing Wall of Fame” that reviewed the previous two years of work, with organizing wins across the field – from private and charter school teachers to PSRP’s – and we vowed to keep going.
And we did.
This past school year, we’ve added even more units to the IFT. Join us in welcoming them and learn why they chose IFT as their partner at work, at the bargaining table, and in Springfield advocating for our professions.
The Lake County Federation of Teachers, (LCFT) Local 504 has been busy this year. Last fall, we organized the mechanics, maintenance, and grounds staff in Zion-Benton District 126. “We organized our union because we wanted a voice on the job,” said Shayne Bjorn, a maintenance and grounds worker in the district. “With a union, we will gain a more collaborative relationship with the district regarding our responsibilities and safe working conditions, we’ll have more access to professional development, and we will bring fairness and transparency to our professions and pay.”
In January, support staff at Prairie Crossing Charter School in Grayslake also joined IFT Local 504. Seeking a stronger voice at work and more collaboration with their administration, the staff saw a union as the way to meet that goal. “We are dedicated to this school, our students, and the community. Being in a union will give us a greater ability to advocate for them all,” said new IFT member and Prairie Crossing instructional assistant, Kristen Zimmerman.
In District 128 in Libertyville and Vernon Hills, Education Support Personnel (ESPs) came together to demand respect and a seat at the table in making decisions that affect their students and their jobs. Jenn Sheppard, a new union member who works in data processing, reflected on the reason they formed a union: “Our ESPs are committed to our students, District 128, and this community. As a strong union of support professionals, we’ll now have a greater voice to make a positive difference for all of them.”
The school year ended with even more great news. After 2022’s successful referendum, Warren Township High School Federation of Teachers (WTHSFT) celebrated their collaboration with the district to establish 33 new union positions that directly support and expand services to students. According to WTHSFT President Nikki Thompson, the union is “thrilled to see this investment in our students so they can thrive academically and personally.”
But the organizing work didn’t stop in Lake County!
In addition to organizing the teachers and support staff at West Side charter school Hope Learning Academy, Chicago Teachers Union (CTU), Local 1, welcomed new members by negotiating with CPS to recognize Resident Teachers as part of the union’s bargaining unit. This achievement brings more than 200 new members to CTU, and the Resident Teachers are now on a path to becoming certified teachers.
Professional staff at Moraine Valley Community College joined the Cook County College Teachers Union (CCCTU), Local 1600, and gained a voice on the job earlier this year. In Hillsboro, teaching assistants were tired of working for below minimum wage and wanted a path to participate in the decision-making that affects their jobs and students. They joined IFT in fall of 2022 and are currently bargaining their first agreement as the Hillsboro Federation of Teaching Assistants, Local 6613! And this summer in Elmwood, support staff joined certified staff in the Elmwood Teachers Association, Local 4235, welcoming bus drivers, maintenance, custodians, and teacher aides to their union and the IFT.
Finally, all the way at the southern end of the state, Education Support Personnel in Century Community Unit School District 100, Local 6539, recently came together to fight an unfair RIF policy that has been a part of hiring and firing practices in the district for decades. They learned that by joining a union, they could fight this policy together, advocate for their students, and gain the support and expertise of IFT staff who ensured their rights were preserved.
In each case, our unions are growing or forming to expand workers’ rights, advocate for our students, and improve our workplaces.
“When unorganized workers across Illinois contacted us during COVID-19, we responded quickly and organized nearly a thousand new educators into the IFT,” said Arnoldo Fabela, IFT Director of Field, Organizing, and Strategic Partnerships. “At our convention last year, we realized that to make our schools better, we needed to help school support staff use their voice and power. Our mission is to unionize thousands of PSRPs in Illinois, which will make our schools and communities stronger. With our recent victories, we are on our way to organizing an additional 1,000 members in 2023!”
Together, we can advance our profession and have a positive impact on the communities where we live and work. Together, we are #IFTstrong.