Benefits Of Membership

There are many reasons why teachers should unionize and affiliate with the Illinois Federation of Teachers Local 1211 but the best reasons will come from other teacher members who work at a school district within an IFT local. The IFT is a 103,000-member union comprised of PreK-12 teachers, paraprofessionals and school-related personnel, higher education professionals, public employees and dental hygienists across Illinois in local unions. The IFT supports – but does not govern – local unions and their members. The IFT is affiliated with the American Federation of Teachers (AFT) and the AFL-CIO. Below are some general reasons to become part of the IFT. Here are just some of those reasons.

Experience, Since 1916, the IFT has been helping teachers organize and gain a voice at their institutions. Organizing teachers is an on-going endeavor. The IFT represents more than 100,000 K-12 educators currently the state of Illinois.

Local Autonomy. The AFT has always believed that locals should run their own union without interference from the national affiliate. State federations are a crucial link in helping locals maintain their union, but decision-making is up to the local; this allows each local to develop its own unique agenda. This commitment is reflected in the diversity of AFT locals. This independence requires locals to maintain a working and active membership to accomplish their goals, rather than relying on an outside service organization. Such activism creates stronger and more effective unions on the local level.

State Support. AFT locals that represents teachers receive support from every level of the AFT, and state federations are the linchpins. The considerable resources and staff of state federations benefit locals in countless ways. Labor-relations specialists and field representatives from the state federations assist locals in contract negotiations, grievance representation, the arbitration process, leadership training and the like. Further, state capitals are key battlegrounds for issues of great importance to our membership--first and foremost because state legislatures have financial and political leverage over the tax-supported institutions in which so many of our members work. The political and research staff of state federations work hard to ensure that the interests of members and our institutions are well-represented throughout state government. Regardless of what problems a local faces, the state federation is an important resource that local unions can rely on.

National Support. The teachers division of the American Federation of Teachers is the oldest and largest segment of the union’s growing and diverse membership. AFT Teachers represents approximately 850,000 Prek-12 public school teachers, a majority of whom work in traditional public schools with others representing charter schools and child care centers. The division is responsible for providing leadership to thousands of AFT local affiliates; developing and implementing school improvements; enhancing teacher quality; and generating higher standards and better assessments.

Nearly 100 years ago, a group of Chicago teachers from eight locals saw teaching as an honored profession that needed organized power and formed the American Federation of Teachers. Since then, the AFT has been a major force for preserving and strengthening America’s democratic commitment to public education and public service by:
• desegregating public schools;
• passing the landmark Elementary and Secondary Education Act;
• establishing tenure laws and academic freedom;
• outlawing yellow dog contracts that prohibited joining a union;
• raising salaries;
• engaging in collective bargaining; and
• championing educational improvement for urban schools, English Language Learners and other historically disadvantaged groups.

Today, AFT Teachers follows the lead of AFT president Randi Weingarten by embracing innovation and ensuring equality in education through broad reform approaches. The division is working to support teachers through the comprehensive teacher development and evaluation template, useful Tools for Teachers, guidance in National Board certification, and professional development through the Educational Research and Development Program. Efforts in school improvement include designing high schools for student success, supporting disadvantaged students through community schools, and assisting reforms in persistently low-achieving schools. Urging for adequate school funding to prevent devastating teacher layoffs, collaborating in the development and implementation of the Common Core Standards, and providing input on Elementary and Secondary Education Act reauthorization are among other current initiatives supported by AFT Teachers.

The AFT Teachers program and policy council includes nearly 60 representatives from local affiliates nationwide. The council meets throughout the year to discuss key issues aligned with the national AFT mission and to direct the work of AFT Teachers accordingly.

Labor Support. AFT is the only higher education union or association that is affiliated with the American Federation of Labor-Congress of Industrial Organizations (AFL-CIO). Not only does this mean that AFT works with the AFL-CIO to defend the rights and needs of working families, it means that AFT locals receive the support of their brothers and sisters in the labor movement. AFT locals can participate in AFL-CIO Central Labor Councils (CLCs), which bring AFL-CIO unions together to work on cross-union issues and give working families a voice in the community. Central Labor Councils also function to support state AFL-CIO organizations, which, along with AFT state federations, work to give you a voice at the state legislature. Both the CLCs and state AFL-CIO organizations have played pivotal roles in AFT organizing efforts as well as in contract negotiations on behalf of locals.

Equality. AFT locals have a great deal of autonomy, but at the same time, they must follow certain constitutional requirements. These requirements ensure equal opportunity for representation and leadership within each local. All members in AFT locals have full voting rights, the right to run for office and be elected to lead a local, and access to all other rights held by any member of a local without distinction.

Foresight. The AFT's higher education department works with AFT locals to identify, track and address new and ongoing legal, technological and other issues pertaining to higher education. Whether the issue has a direct impact on the educational environment or other areas that directly affect the lives of professional staff, AFT is constantly working to identify these issues and work on behalf of all of our members.

If you and your colleagues are thinking about organizing and joining a union, or have any questions about the IFT Local 1211 please contact us at (847) 303-1211.