Organize a Union

What are the benefits of organizing a union?

  • A collective voice in the decision-making process
  • The rights and protections of the Illinois Educational Labor Relations Act (IELRA) or the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA)
  • A contract with employee rights clearly defined and a grievance clause ending in binding arbitration to resolve disputes
  • Credibility: being taken seriously when you raise concerns with your employer
  • The resources, expertise, and assistance of the IEA-NEA
  • Fair treatment

Contact us about organizing a union

What rights and protections do we have if we organize?

Without a union, the employer has the exclusive authority to hire, fire, set wages, hours, and benefits and to make other decisions related to your employment. Unorganized employees have very few rights or protections unless they have obtained collective bargaining recognition.

The law dramatically limits the employer’s rights to make decisions unilaterally. Under the law (either the NLRA or the IELRA), the employer is required to bargain in good faith and in a timely manner over all decisions regarding wages, hours, benefits, and working conditions with your democratically elected representatives.

If we organize, does the law protect us from retaliation?

You are fully protected in the exercise of your rights to organize. Acts of harassment, coercion and intimidation are violations of state and federal law, constituting an unfair labor practice. The IEA will provide you with the legal services necessary to ensure that the law is followed.

If we organize, what kind of union will we have?

You will be chartered as an autonomous local union affiliated with IEA-NEA. This means that you will draft and adopt a constitution and bylaws to govern your local and to establish guidelines for electing officers. You will maintain a local treasury. All policies regarding the direction of your local will be determined in a democratic manner. IEA will provide you with professional and legal resources needed to be an effective organization, but you will decide policies and goals for your local.

Currently, you act alone in matters dealing with your employer. Organizing means that you become a legal entity recognized under state law and banded together in mutual support to deal with your employer. When individual concerns arise, you will have an organization to provide assistance.

What do we get for our dues?

A few of the major benefits are:

  • Full legal services for job-related problems
  • $1,000,000 liability insurance protection
  • Professional assistance with negotiations
  • Grievance/arbitration assistance
  • Access to Conferences and Training programs
  • Up to $50,000 accidental death/dismemberment insurance
  • Access to NEA Membership Benefits (IEA members save money by purchasing low-cost car insurance, home/rental insurance, travel programs, high-yield CD and money market certificates, and other discounted programs.)
  • Individual assistance and advice when you need help
  • Attorney referral program including an hour of free consultation for non job-related business.

Will everyone be required to join the union?

Membership is always voluntary.  Yet, while the U.S. Supreme Court 2018 Janus ruling eliminated the requirement for public employee non-members to pay a fee, or one’s “fair share” for receiving the benefits of collective bargaining agreement, employees are still entitled to representation per Illinois public employee labor law.  This, however, is tied to contractual matters only and does not guarantee representation in every situation.  Non-members forfeit their rights to have any say in union business nor take part in union votes on contract ratification votes, the local’s budget and bylaws/constitution, and elections of officers or representatives.  Non-members cannot run for office nor serve on key committees.  Furthermore, they forego numerous personal benefits of full union membership detailed elsewhere on this website.

What is the right to representation?

If you organize, you have an organization which provides representation in all cases involving student complaints and employee disciplinary action. You have someone to help you when needed and a contract providing basic employment rights.

How are dues increased?

Your local will set its dues in accordance with its constitution and bylaws. IEA dues are increased by a 2/3 vote of local association delegates elected to the annual IEA Representative Assembly (RA). Likewise, it takes a 2/3 vote of the elected delegates at the annual NEA RA to raise NEA dues. Last year 10,000 delegated attended the NEA RA.

What about strikes?

While strikes are legal, they rarely happen. In the 1990’s, IEA has averaged about five strikes per year for its 1000 locals (less than 0.5%). Most contracts are settled amicably.

If the board does not bargain in good faith, what are the alternatives to a strike?

The association can file an Unfair Labor Practice charge against the board and organize community and student support to pressure the board to settle.

Can an individual employee be held personally liable in a case involving student injury?

Under Illinois law, public institutions are required to carry liability insurance coverage for its employees in the performance of their duties. However, if a student is injured in the classroom, lab, or elsewhere on campus, the employer could fire you for “willful negligence” and you would not be covered by the insurance.

All IEA members receive full legal assistance in such employment-related cases and $1,000,000 liability insurance protection.

Questions about Organizing a Union