Teacher leaves Chicago union on principle, weak contract deal
Unions often portray their collective bargaining work as a key selling point for membership, but one former member of the Chicago Teachers Union disagrees with that premise.
The teacher, who spoke with the North Cook News on condition of anonymity, said working one-on-one with Chicago Public Schools would have “landed me in a much better position if I had been able to negotiate my own salary.”
The reason? The instructor said despite earning two master’s degrees and having rare qualifications to teach special courses, the district offers the same pay level as gym or reading teachers.
“Their skills are not in any way unique,” he said in an interview with the North Cook News. “They get paid exactly the same that I get paid simply based on number of years of experience and how many credit hours they racked up in college, even though those credit hours have nothing to do with what they teach.”
That’s why this instructor chose to opt out of union membership when the chance came early this year. Although the teacher said the process itself was easy – simply sign a paper and check the box – there was a catch.
“It was funny the way it happened,” the teacher explained. “It felt like [the paperwork] had to be mailed within the next day or two to meet the deadline, so there was very little notice given. I think the real trick was that if I wasn’t at home or if I didn’t read my mail that day, I probably wouldn’t have made the deadline.”
This teacher said anti-union sentiment prompted the choice to opt out, rather than performance issues with union leadership.
“I’m also not a fan of these strikes that result in no significant gains,” the instructor said. “I’ve been a participant in two of these strikes. The students get locked out of the classroom, the teachers don’t really win much, to me it feels like whatever goes into the contract is really there to protect union members and not really serve the children, no matter how the union tries to spin it."
The instructor said so far there has been no repercussions of opting out but said it was unclear who can find out whether a specific person is a union member.
“Illinois is a very liberal state,” the teacher said. “People in the education industry, whether they’re teachers or administrators or union [leaders], tend to be very, very liberal. Not being part of the union is not popular. By opting out of the union it’s like putting a big Republican sticker on my forehead.”
The Illinois Policy Institute has created Leave My Union for other public sector employees looking to opt out of their unions.
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