Why IFT arrow
As we go about our lives, it’s easy to take for granted all the ways that our union membership benefits us, our communities, and those we serve.

Being a member of the IFT means we are not alone. Together in our union, we are 103,000 dedicated education and public service professionals from cities and towns of every size across Illinois. When we speak and act collectively, we have a powerful voice in our workplaces, our communities, and in Springfield to affect change.

Strong unions help everyday men and women – both union and non-union – earn a good living and receive more equitable treatment on the job, no matter their gender, race, or religion. And our unity helps us advocate for important professional issues like class size, training, and working and learning conditions. That benefits us all.

So take a moment today to think about what the IFT and your local union means to you. Then dedicate yourself to playing a more active role in the union to help keep it strong.


Dan Montgomery | IFT President



Simply put, a union is a group of colleagues who come together to advance their common interests with collective power. A union is not an outside organization or a third party; it is a democratic organization run by its members who make decisions and set direction on their own behalf.

Over many years, the collective action of union members has had a substantial impact on wages, benefits, equality, and workplace protections. In fact, unions have played a pivotal role in securing important gains that benefit everyone, though we may take them for granted.


So whether or not you’re a member, unions have played an instrumental role in fighting on your behalf!
Strong unions mean strong communities because unions help all workers, not just their members, earn higher wages. For example, an average worker in a “right-to-work” state makes about $6,000 less per year than he or she would in a free bargaining state.

As the inequality gap between the very rich and very poor widens, unions today have become more important than ever for middle-class families. And 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 voice in the workplace, as well as the ability to advocate for those they serve.


IFT members are your neighbors. We are educators and school support staff. We are kindergarten teachers and college faculty. We are public service professionals, state employees, caregivers, and pillars of your community.

We stand united and proud to tell the world, “I am IFT!”

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 as a united group 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, and other matters that have a positive impact on education, public services, and our communities.

  • 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
    You have a say. 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 for our locals. But the union does more than help to bargain the agreement. We also help 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 tracks legislation, 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.

  • Communications
    IFT keeps members informed and engaged through, social media, email alerts, and our quarterly newsletter, Union Link. Our team also works closely with the media to ensure our members’ perspective is included in news coverage and provides customized training for locals and councils on a variety of tactics.

  • Respect.


On average, union members earn 27% more than their non-union counterparts.

Many IFT contracts guarantee annual pay increases and include a pay schedule that rewards employees for academic advancement and years of experience.



IFT contracts include provisions like clear job descriptions and duties for all members, opportunities for advancement, and more to ensure equal treatment on the job.

Many IFT contracts provide members with health insurance benefits, sick pay, professional development opportunities, and much more.

Unionized workers receive 26% more vacation time and 14% more total paid leave than non-union workers.

Retirement Security
Union members are 60% more likely to have employer-provided pensions.

Job Security
Non-union employees are "at-will" workers, with no job protections; they can be fired at any time for any reason without due process. With most union contracts, workers cannot be fired without "just cause."

IFT contracts are often multi-year agreements that include job protection provisions like defined grievance procedures to eliminate the possibility of arbitrary or undeserved dismissal. (In the event that an employer violates those rules, he union will be there to represent you.)



The IFT has a long history of successfully advocating for our members, public education, and state services. Our union has helped to secure important gains for workers in Illinois, like the right to collective bargaining and card check authorization for organizing. We have also fought to protect public pensions and for fair funding for education and public services, which benefits all Illinoisans and the communities in which we live.


Every member of the IFT is essential to the strength of the union. The information below will help you understand how you fit in and why your involvement is so important.




IFT members make a difference at their workplaces every day for those they serve. Through collective action in their unions, they uphold IFT's core values and make a difference for their members and communities, too. Here are just a few of our accomplishments:

Champion strong public services and public education.

IFT locals engage with communities across the state to recruit candidates, transform school boards, and improve public schools.

Illinois Federation of Public Employees, Local 4408, increases public safety by keeping the pressure on the state to hire more transportation workers.

Chicago Teachers Union, Local 1, partners with local groups and parents to protest and save last remaining neighborhood school in south side community.
Promote professionalism through a collective voice in the workplace.

Chicago Alliance of Charter Teachers and Staff, Local 4343: in spite of pressure from their employers, more than 1,000 teachers and staff at 32 schools organize unions to advocate for high-quality education, due process, and a collective voice.

Southwest Suburban Federation of Teachers, Local 943, embarks on IFT/AFT Leadership Education and Development (LEAD) training program to create a diverse and determined culture inclusive of their councils and community.
Speak up powerfully together to change the rules, sustain our families, and strengthen our communities. 

Big classes are a big mistake: member activism helps preserve special education class size protections.

Unconstitutional pension legislation defeated
: unions help stop a bill that would have cut benefits for active and retired Illinois Municipal Retirement Fund (IMRF) members.

Retirement security protected: union coalition lawsuit overturns pension-slashing legislation (SB1). Supreme Court rules law unconstitutional.
Provide all students with the opportunities and skills necessary to learn and excel.

Downstate locals join forces with area trades and labor to build a safe training and entertainment facility for at-risk youth.

IFT locals across the state form partnerships with First Book to deliver thousands of books to underprivileged children.

West Suburban Teachers Union, Local 571, offers nearly $20,000 in scholarships each year to help high school students pursue their higher education and career dreams.
Advocate for safer working conditions for our members to effectively serve our citizens.

UIC United Faculty, Local 6456: two-day work stoppage leads to dramatically improved work life, safe laboratories, and a hard-fought contract which paves the way for non-tenure-track faculty stability across the state.

Cahokia Federation of Teachers, Local 1272, and East St. Louis Federation of Teachers, Local 1220: PSRPs create a workplace safety program used in high schools across the nation. 
Support community programs and build robust relationships so our neighborhoods can grow and thrive.

Quincy Federation of Teachers, Local 809, partners with community groups to feed the hungry.

Peoria Federation of Teachers, Local 780, utilizes union grant to establish a program that connects high school students with local businesses and provides a pathway to internship opportunities and well-paying jobs.

Cook County College Teachers Union, Local 1600, raises more than $10,000 for breast cancer awareness.

University Professionals of Illinois, Local 4100, forms a broad coalition of faculty, students, and allies to send postcards, hold rallies, and speak out in the media to save need-based tuition grants for college students and fight for affordable higher education.
Fight for a stronger and more fair economy. 

Solidarity triumphs: packed houses of IFT members and citizens beat back Governor Rauner's attempts to enact so-called "right-to-work" laws that reduce average middle-class incomes in order to boost corporate profits.

Collective action of Illinois labor groups puts "millionaire's tax" and "minimum wage" on the ballot.
Stand up for human rights and respect for all people. 

AFT Local 604 introduces "marriage equality for all" resolution: IFT convention delegates unanimously pass resolution in support of equal rights for all people, regardless of sexual orientation.

Waukegan Teachers Council, Local 504, engages community in a strike spanning several weeks to create a contract that improves lives for teachers and the families they serve.
We are always searching for more stories about IFT members going above and beyond for their communities and those they serve. Contact to share your local success story.

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.

If you and your colleagues do not have a union and would like to begin the organizing process, contact Kathy Shaevel, IFT Director of Collective Bargaining.

Learn more about how to organize a union here.

Legislative Update: Week of May 6, 2019

by Jennifer Visk | May 10, 2019
Action on the House and Senate Floor was light this week as today is the deadline for cross-chamber bills to be considered in a committee.
Action on the House and Senate Floor was light this week as today is the deadline for cross-chamber bills to be considered in a committee. The next deadlines are Friday, May 24 (deadline to move bills off the floor) and May 31 (General Assembly’s adjournment). 

An overview of the weeks action:

Efforts focused on House of Representatives to pass Fair Tax
Last week, the Illinois Senate passed SJRCA 1 (Sen. Harmon, D-Oak Park), a measure to put a constitutional amendment for a Fair Tax on the November 2020 ballot. It now must be approved by the House. A Fair Tax would give 97% of Illinois earners some tax relief, while generating $3.4 billion per year in much-needed revenue for public schools, colleges and universities, and public services.

The proposal now needs to be approved by the House. Lawmakers need to hear from you! CLICK HERE TO CALL* now and tell your State Representative to support the Fair Tax and fund the future we all deserve.

Here’s a sample script to use when you call:

Hello, my name is (SAY YOUR NAME) and I’m an IFT member in your district. I’m calling today to urge you to support a constitutional amendment to put a Fair Tax on the ballot in 2020.

As you know, a Fair Tax would give 97 percent of Illinois earners some tax relief, while generating billions of dollars each year for public schools, higher education, and public services. By simply asking the very wealthiest Illinoisans to pay a little bit more, we can make a big difference for everyone in our community.

I urge you to do the right thing and support a Fair Tax. Thank you.

Governor rethinks pension holiday
Gov. Pritzker announced that, due to an unexpected increase in tax receipts in April, he will not be pursuing a plan to delay paying a portion of the state’s pension liability payments. IFT opposed the Governor’s original plan to shortchange pensions, but supports him choosing to direct the extra tax monies to pay down pension debts. 

Capital construction inches forward
Sen. Sandoval (D-Chicago) proposed legislation to increase the state gasoline tax by $0.25 and increase car license and registration fees to bring in an estimated $2.4 billion for capital construction in the state. A similar bill was approved by the House Revenue Committee on Thursday: HB 391 (Rep. Madigan, D-Chicago) would increase the taxes on gasoline, diesel fuel, and electric vehicles, as well as increase fees for car and truck registrations, titles, and driver license fees.

Senate Labor Committee advances graduate assistant unionization proposal
The Senate Labor Committee heard testimony and approved HB 253 (Rep. Guzzardi, D-Chicago and Sen. Fine, D-Glenview) that changes the law so that graduate research assistants are recognized as employees, as teaching assistants are.

Senators support IFT PSRP recall rights 
On a unanimous bipartisan vote, the Senate Education Committee approved HB 921 (Rep. Stuart, D-Collinsville) that establishes recall rights for paraprofessionals and school-related personnel (PSRPs) and ensures that they have the same rights as teachers.

Other legislative action this week
The House and Senate Committees moved several bills through the committee process, including: 

HB 247 (Rep. Carroll, D-Northbrook) requires school districts contracting with a third party for driver education to ensure that the private instructor has a teaching license and is evaluated by the district administrator.

HB 2087 (Rep. Carroll, D-Northbrook) provides that no student may take the entire driver education course through a distance learning program. This change is in response to a recently passed ISBE administrative rule.

HB 2265 (Rep. Lilly, D-Oak Park) requires every public elementary school to include in its 6th, 7th, or 8th grade curriculum at least one semester of civics education. 

SB 10 (Sen. Manar, D-Bunker Hill) increases the minimum teacher salary to $40,000 per year over a five-year period.

SB 456 (Sen. Martinez, D-Chicago) is an omnibus educator misconduct bill that requires a criminal background check of every school employee every five years, requires ISBE to conduct random audits of teachers to determine if they are fulfilling continuing education requirements, and requires ISBE to suspend or revoke a teacher’s license for committing or attempting to commit certain felonies.

SB 1226 (Sen. Holmes, D-Aurora) abolishes the State Charter School Commission and transfers all responsibilities to ISBE.

SB 1601 (Sen. Sims, D-Chicago), regarding the instruction on history of the United States, requires that the course must also include instruction on the history of Illinois.

SB 1731 (Sen. Koehler, D-Peoria) provides that the in-service training on mental health must utilize evidence-based training that educates the participants on recognizing the signs and symptoms of mental illness and substance use disorders.

SB 1746 (Sen. Belt, D-East St. Louis) provides that moneys in the working cash fund may be used by a school board for any and all school purposes and may be transferred in whole or in part to the general funds or both of the school district and disbursed in anticipation of state funding received by the school district.

SB 1798 (Sen. Rose, R-Champaign) requires each school district to create, maintain, and implement an age-appropriate policy on sexual harassment that must be posted on the school district's website.

SJR 41 (Sen. McGuire, D-Crest Hill) passed out of the Senate Higher Education Committee. This resolution directs the Illinois Community College Board and the Illinois Board of Higher Education to establish a joint advisory council to study how Illinois can maximize the number of students completing credit-bearing certificate programs and two-year or four-year degree programs so they can enter into high-skill, high-wage occupations. The joint council will develop a plan to increase those numbers.

A look ahead
The Senate Education Committee is scheduled to meet and hear two bills that IFT supports: HB 254 (Rep. Peters, D-Chicago) and HB 2084 (Rep. Lightford, D-Maywood). HB 254 requires the State Board of Education to make information about actively-employed teachers, pupil-teacher ratios, class instructors by grade level and subject, and class size available online. HB 2084 creates a grant program for school districts that wish to create or expand restorative justice programs; hire school psychologists, social workers, and other mental and behavioral health specialists; provide drug and alcohol treatment services, wraparound services for youth, and training for school staff on conflict resolution and trauma-informed approaches to meeting students’ developmental needs; and other strategies for creating safe and healthy learning environments.

The Government Accountability and Pensions Committee is expected to hear HB 3053 (Rep. Cullerton, D-Villa Park) a bill that would form a consolidation commission tasked with making recommendations for consolidation of at least 25 percent of Illinois School Districts. The IFT opposes HB 3053. 

The Senate Judiciary Committee is scheduled to hear HB 3606 (Rep. Aquino, D-Chicago) a bill that requires schools and the State Board to list publicly the types of data they collect and who that data is shared with. It also creates notification procedures for parents and schools if their children’s data is breached. The IFT supports HB 3606. 

The Illinois State Board of Education is scheduled to meet Wednesday, May 15 at 10:30am. 

Watch Under the Dome for additional legislative updates. 



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