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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)


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To begin the organizing process, contact IFT Director of Field Mobilization Arnoldo Fabela


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 and 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)?

IFT President applauds teacher minimum salary bill signing

by Marilou Lerner | Aug 22, 2019
Bill's passing is a major step in addressing the teacher shortage.
IFT President Dan Montgomery released the following statement today after Governor Pritzker signed a bill that raises the statutory minimum teacher salary to $40,000 (HB 2078).

“We have a teacher shortage in our state, and research shows that fair compensation plays a major factor in a person's decision to choose and stay in a profession,” said IFT President Dan Montgomery. “Too often new teachers struggle financially, and many are forced to work a second job to make ends meet. This legislation is a major step in improving starting salaries and paying teachers based upon their years of education, which will encourage high-quality professionals to enter and stay in the profession. We thank Senator Manar and Representative Stuart for advancing this much-needed bill and Governor Pritzker for signing it into law.”

A number of IFT members and teacher advocates attended the bill signing.

  • Michelle Anderson – Champaign Federation of Teachers membership coordinator; 21-year middle school reading specialist teacher
  • Chuck Noud – President of Granite City Federation of Teachers; 20-year band teacher
  • Brandi Many – 15-year AP physics teacher in Quincy
  • Spencer Saal – President of Madison Federation of Teachers; 10-year high school science teacher
  • Kate Schumacher – IFT Field Service Director; 18-year English teacher, Quincy
  • Jen White – IFT Field Service Director; 18-year middle school science teacher
  • Michelle Paul – Director of the IFT Department of Political Activities

 Minimum teacher salary 8-22-19 1

Shown left to right: Qunicy teacher Brandi Many, IFT Field Service Director Katie Schumacher, Madison Federation of Teachers President Spencer Saal, State Rep. Katie Stuart, Granite City Federation of Teachers President Chuck Noud, IFT Field Service Director Jen White and Champaign Federation of Teachers Membership Coordinator Michelle Anderson



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