Right to Work Legal: Chicago Teachers Have ‘Right to Rebuff’ Union Demands

CHICAGO, ILLINOIS - OCTOBER 17: Chicago public school teachers and their supporters picket outside of Lane Tech College Prep high school on October 17, 2019 in Chicago, Illinois. About 25,000 Chicago school teachers went on strike today after the Chicago Teachers Union (CTU) failed to reach a contract agreement with …
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The National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation (NRTW) has issued a special legal notice to the more than 20,000 teachers affected by the Chicago Teachers Union (CTU) strike order.

The notice informs Chicago teachers they have a right to refuse to leave their students and to continue to provide for their families during the planned strike. Additionally, the notice offers teachers links to resources to help them exercise their rights without fear of retaliation from union leaders.

“This strike raises serious concerns for employees who believe there is much to lose from a union-ordered strike,” the notice reads. “Employees have the legal right to rebuff union officials’ strike demands, but it is important for them to be fully informed before they do so.”

NRTW says recent cases their staff attorneys have brought show union bosses often deceive workers about their rights during a union-ordered strike.

The NRTW legal notice informs Chicago teachers they should be aware they have the following rights:

A union has no disciplinary power over nonmembers and cannot discipline them for crossing a picket line and working during a strike.

If you are currently a union member, you have the right to resign your union membership. Union officials can (and often do) levy large fines against union members who work during a strike. If you are now a union member and want to work during a strike, you should seriously consider resigning your union membership at least one day BEFORE you return to work. That is the only way to avoid possible ruinous union fines and other discipline. To have the best legal defense possible against fines the union may try to impose, you should give the union notice of your resignation BEFORE you cross the picket line so that when you return to work you are not a union member.

If you encounter any difficulties in exercising your right to work during a strike, you can contact the Foundation to request free legal aid at www.nrtw.org/free-legal-aid.

NRTW reminds Chicago teachers the Supreme Court ruled last year in Janus v. AFSCME that nonmembers of a public sector union have a First Amendment right not to pay any union fees or dues — unless they have waived that right.

The Foundation warns of the need for workers to fully understand the waiver process:

A union has the burden of proving employees waived their First Amendment rights by “clear and compelling” evidence. Some unions claim that employees who authorized their employer to deduct union dues and fees in the past have waived their First Amendment rights. Whether a dues deduction authorization is an effective waiver depends on when it was signed and how it was worded.

Chicago teachers who encounter difficulties in ending the collection of union fees or dues from their paychecks are invited to contact NRTW.

“CTU bosses appear intent on attempting to shut down Chicago schools with a strike in order to flex their political muscle, even if leaving children out in the cold achieves nothing for the rank-and-file teachers,” said NRTW President Mark Mix. “Chicago teachers must decide for themselves whether abandoning their students at the behest of CTU officials is really what is best for them, and Foundation staff attorneys stand by to assist those teachers want to [sic] continue teaching their students and provide for their families.”

Teachers can obtain more information by visiting the NRTW website.

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