For decades, public school employees were forced to make an unfair and unconstitutional choice: Pay money to a union, or lose your job.

But that changed in June 2018 with the U.S. Supreme Court’s landmark decision in Janus v. AFSCME. The court ruled that paying fees to a union can no longer be a condition of employment. Now, public school employees can work for their school district without sending a piece of every paycheck to a union.

There are a lot of voices out there, with many sending conflicting messages. Here’s what you need to know to sort it all out:

  • What is “opting out”?

    Public employees who do not want to be members of IEA can leave the union while continuing employment.

  • How much money can I save by leaving IEA?

    IEA dues can cost hundreds of dollars a year. By opting out, you will no longer pay any union dues.

  • Will I lose health insurance or other benefits?

    No. You are guaranteed any benefits provided in the collective bargaining agreement with your employer.

  • What about liability insurance and job protection?

    Alternative associations – such as the Association of American Educators – offer liability insurance and job protection coverage, often at a fraction of the cost of union membership.

    Interested in learning more about how Illinois public school educators can obtain liability insurance and job protection? You can learn more and sign up at the Association of American Educators.

  • Why is the Illinois Policy Institute helping people opt out of IEA?

    The Illinois Policy Institute has always been a resource for workers seeking to exercise their rights and choose for themselves whether to associate with a union. We’ve created this website to make the process easy for those who want to opt out of union membership.

  • Why would I want to stop paying union dues?

    Public school employees who have chosen not to be union members have cited a number of reasons for doing so, including the following:

    1. The union spends too much on politics.
    2. The union doesn’t represent its members well.
    3. The family budget is tight, and that extra money could go a long way.
    4. Opting out gives you the freedom to make choices you think are best.
    1) The union spends too much on politics.

    Only a portion of local educators’ union dues is spent locally. The rest is passed up the chain to state and national union affiliates, which can then spend the money any way they choose.

    Take a look at the following examples from Illinois Education Association and its national affiliate, the National Education Association:

    • IEA and NEA spent over $219 million on political activities and lobbying from 2013 to 2017, according to federal filings.
    • NEA has been known to spend more on political activities and lobbying than it does on representing workers.
    • IEA’s political action committee directed over $11.3 million to election committees and other PACs in Illinois from 2013 to 2017.
    2) The union doesn’t represent its members well.

    Between 2013 and 2018, only around $9.7 million of IEA’s $75.7 million average annual spending went toward “representational activities.”

    That’s just 13 cents of every $1.

    IEA spent more on benefits for union leaders and employees – more than $12.3 million on average each year – than it did on representing its members.

    Opting out allows you to retain your dues if you don’t think the union is representing you well. And it sends a message that the union needs to work harder to support the workers it represents.

    3) The family budget is tight, and that extra money could go a long way.

    Public employees each pay hundreds of dollars – or more – every year to their unions. That’s money workers earn, but never get to see.

    Opting out of the union allows you to keep more of your hard-earned money.

    4) Opting out gives you the freedom to make choices you think are best.

    Public employee strikes are not uncommon in Illinois. In fact, the state is home to two of the nation’s biggest government worker strikes in the last decade – both by a teachers’ union

    This means public employees in Illinois frequently have to make an intensely personal and stressful decision: 1) Go to work and get paid – and risk fines or other forms of union punishment, or 2) Go on strike – and risk not only your paycheck, but, unbeknownst to many workers, sometimes even your job.

    Because the union has no disciplinary authority over nonmembers, opting out provides you more freedom to make the choice that is best for you and your family.

  • What happens if I am not a member of the union?

    Nonmembers do not pay any fees to the union. But you are still guaranteed the benefits provided in the collective bargaining agreement.

    That’s because decades ago, Illinois’ government union leaders lobbied for the exclusive right to represent all public workers – both members and nonmembers. And that means you retain all benefits provided in your collective bargaining agreement.

    Examples may include the following:

    • Salary and raises
    • Health insurance
    • Pension benefits
    • Vacation days and holidays
    • Overtime pay
    • Seniority
    • Leaves of absence (including sick leave)


    On the other hand, nonmembers are not entitled to perks guaranteed to members through the union’s internal rules or membership agreement. Examples may include:

    • Voting rights (on ratification of contract, strike authorization, etc.)
    • Holding union office or representing the union as a delegate to a convention
    • Utilizing union-negotiated discounts (for things such as additional life insurance, health clubs, tickets to events, etc.)
    • Maintaining any liability insurance the union provides, as opposed to insurance provided by the government employer
    • Receiving newsletters or other union publications
    • Attending special union events (such as meetings, picnics, Christmas parties, etc.)
  • Which workers can opt out of the union and stop paying dues?

    Both state and local government workers can opt out of union membership and stop paying dues. This includes teachers in public schools, as well as workers employed by cities, towns, villages, counties, townships and the state.

  • How do I tell my employer and union to stop deducting dues?

    The process is simple: Fill out the form here, and the appropriate letters will be sent on your behalf to both your employer and your union.

  • What if my employer or union doesn’t honor my opt-out request?

    Some employers, influenced by union misinformation, are not immediately stopping dues deductions upon request. And some unions are refusing to honor requests unless they are submitted within a specific time window dictated by internal union rules.

    We believe these obstructions are unconstitutional. If you encounter any barriers in your effort to stop dues or fees from being deducted from your paycheck, please contact us at


Feel free to email us at or call (630) 448-0016.


To stop your employer from deducting dues from your paycheck click here.

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