Join IFT arrow

Join the Movement

Being a union member is the most effective way to advocate for yourself, your profession, and those you serve.

If you are a new employee at an Illinois school, college, university, or in some state agencies, you may already be an IFT member! Find out who your building representative or worksite leader is and inquire about whether your colleagues have already organized a union and joined the IFT. (If they have, get involved!)

If you and your colleagues are not organized, there are many important reasons you should consider joining the IFT family.

(Click here to see the difference)


Want to display this graphic on your site?
Simply copy and paste the code below into the html of your website to display the infographic presented above.

To begin the organizing process, contact IFT Director of Collective Bargaining Kathy Shaevel.


In Illinois, there are three boards that administer the labor laws related to organizing new unions, conducting elections, and collectively bargaining.

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.

#1: 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, after which your union can be certified by the appropriate labor board. This is the least common option.

#2: 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.

The board will thoroughly review the cards, and the names of those who have signed them remain confidential throughout the process.

The election will be by secret ballot and run by the appropriate labor board. The outcome of the election is decided by a simple majority. If you and your colleagues elect IFT representation, you can begin bargaining your contract with your employer.

#3: 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. Once a majority+1 potential members sign these authorization cards, the union will file a petition with the appropriate labor board. The board verifies the cards. The authorization cards remain confidential throughout the process. (Remember, this option is available only to educational and public employees, not private sector workers.)


Following certification of your union by the labor board and with the assistance of the IFT, your new union will be formalized with the issuance of a charter. You can then begin creating a constitution and bylaws, electing your colleagues as union officers, and bargaining the contract for your group.

It will be YOUR union, so you and your colleagues will elect officers and representatives who oversee your organization and report to the members on all matters pertaining to your union. Your local’s elected officers will also be responsible for enforcing your contract, with support and assistance from the IFT available whenever needed.
Learn more about how easy it is to take the next step and join the IFT! For K-12 schools and public employees, contact Kathy Shaevel. For higher education, contact Arnoldo Fabela. 



  • How do my colleagues and I form a union and join the IFT?

  • Does the IFT control what happens in local unions?

  • Do I have to pay dues?

  • How much are dues?

  • Does the IFT use dues dollars for political contributions?

  • How does collective bargaining impact public education?

  • Why is collective bargaining under attack?

  • What is Right-to-Work (RTW)?

Legislative Update: Week of May 20, 2019

by Jennifer Visk | May 24, 2019
Read the latest updates from Springfield as the GA nears its May 31 adjournment.

Heading into Memorial Day weekend, here’s the latest news out of Springfield, including updates on IFT initiatives and several larger legislative items that await final action as the General Assembly’s scheduled May 31 adjournment nears.

Fair Tax

On Friday May 24, the House Revenue and Finance Committee approved SB 687 (Sen. Zalewski, D-Riverside) establishing a new graduated tax rate structure. Other components of the Fair Tax plan are positioned in various stages of the process: 

Earlier in the week, the Revenue Committee approved SJRCA 1 which allows for a Fair Tax Constitutional Amendment to be placed on the 2020 General Election ballot, and it is now pending a second reading in the House. The measure has already been approved by the Senate and needs a 3/5 majority vote by the House of Representatives. 

Two related bills sponsored by Rep. Zalewski, D-Riverside, are scheduled to be heard in the House Revenue Committee at 8:30 a.m. on Memorial Day: SB 689 to repeal the estate tax and SB 690 to expand the Property Tax Extension Limitation Law (PTELL) to school districts in all counties.

Budget update

The legislative leaders met late Thursday to discuss budget and capital projects, but no final proposal has surfaced.  

Action alert! There is no longer a stand-alone piece of legislation to remove the 3 percent salary cap. IFT educators have seen how the 3 percent cap weakens the teaching profession. Fewer college students choose to teach because they know they won’t be paid like other professionals. To recruit new educators, Illinois needs to show that we value teaching and pay teachers what they’re worth. Call your lawmaker and ask them not to leave Springfield next week without ensuring that the 3% repeal is part of any bill that affects the budget.

IFT initiatives continue to advance

HB 253
(Rep. Guzzardi, D-Chicago and Sen. Fine, D-Glenview) changes the law so graduate research assistants are recognized as employees, as teaching assistants are. Now having passed both chambers, the bill awaits Governor Pritzker's signature. 

SB 28 (Sen. Bertino-Tarrant, D-Plainfield) restores the instructional day/school year language and expands e-learning pilots to all districts with requirements of a public hearing and school board vote. The bill is effective July 1, 2019, allowing school districts with approved calendars to proceed through the length of the approved calendar without challenges. The bill was approved unanimously in both chambers and has been sent to the Governor. 

SB 1952 (Sen. Manar, D-Bunker Hill) bundled together several important solutions to the teacher shortage:

  • Eliminates the basic skills test requirement
  • Removes prohibition to allow student teachers to be paid
  • Refunds the $300 cost of the EdTPA test to educators teaching for one year in a Tier 1 district. 

An amendment was added and approved in the House that removed language repealing the 3% liability cap. The bill now goes back to the Senate for a concurrence and then to the Governor for approval. 

Negotiations were finalized and the House Elementary and Secondary Administration, Licensing and Charters Committee approved SB 1213 (Sen. Stuart, D-Collinsville) this week. The bill creates a local appeal process for unsatisfactory evaluations. A House vote is expected next week. 

A look ahead

The May 31st scheduled adjournment is fast approaching. Both the Senate and the House of Representatives return to their districts Saturday. House members return for Session Sunday evening and the Senate returns to Springfield Monday afternoon. 

A number of key issues are still up for debate: legalization of recreational marijuana, expanded gaming, capital projects, and the Fair Tax. Each of these are important pieces necessary to meet the revenue proposed for the Fiscal Year 2020 state budget.

Watch Under the Dome for the latest updates.



    Copyright © 2019 Illinois Federation of Teachers