For decades, state and local government 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 employees can work for the state or their local government 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 SEIU can leave the union while continuing employment.

  • How much money can I save by leaving SEIU?

    SEIU 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.

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

    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 end my union dues?

    State and local government workers have cited a number of reasons for choosing not to be union members, including the following:

    1. The union spends money in questionable ways.
    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 me the freedom to make choices I think are best.
    1) The union spends money in questionable ways.

    Unions spend much of their funds on politics and union leadership priorities, often at the expense of the workers the union is supposed to be representing.

    SEIU is no different.

    According to federal reporting documents filed by SEIU, the union spent almost $13 million on “political activities and lobbying” between 2013 and 2017. That’s an average of almost $2.6 million a year directed toward politics and away from workers.

    In fact, only one-third of SEIU’s spending between 2013 and 2017 went toward “representational activities” for its members. According to Wise Giving Alliance, a project of the Better Business Bureau, a nonprofit should spend at least 65 percent of its total expenses on program activities.

    But even some of the spending SEIU reported as “representational” is dubious. Consider the following expenditures SEIU reported as representational spending between 2013 and 2017:

    • Almost $1 million on restaurants and catering
    • Over $220,000 on Christmas parties
    • Over $105,000 on resorts for staff, and manager and executive board retreats and meetings
    • Almost $100,000 on an additional leadership event
    2) The union doesn’t represent its members well.

    There’s a good chance you never voted for your union. In fact, many of Illinois’ government worker unions were in place before current workers were even born.

    Perhaps the union failed to provide adequate support when you filed a grievance. Maybe the union’s priorities no longer reflect the priorities of its members. Or perhaps you don’t oppose the politicians the union supports, but think the union’s No. 1 job is to represent you – not to engage in political activities.

    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.

    Because of the “right to strike” enshrined in Illinois state law, public employees 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 employees can opt out of union membership and stop paying dues. This includes public school employees 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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