Unions in North America started nearly two hundred years ago as “mutual aid societies.” They are still like that today. Everyone who belongs contributes a small portion of their income in return for the protection of the group as a whole. That’s what union dues are. Every union member contributes to a common fund of money that is used to protect the interests of all.
It’s a lot like insurance. In fact, many people view union dues as “job insurance premiums,” though that doesn’t tell half the story. Union dues are used not only to protect jobs but to fund negotiations for better wages and working conditions, to pay for professional advice when needed, to organize more workers and thus make the union stronger, to train stewards and health and safety committee activists, to lobby for better laws for workers and their families, and many other purposes.
Because unions get their funds only from their members, there are no divided loyalties. Unions stand up for their members – the people who pay all the bills. Yes, unions can cooperate with governments and employers, but where their members’ interests are at stake, unions side with their members. In no union is this more true than in UFCW Canada. For example, in order to protect its members’ legal rights, UFCW Canada has gone to the Supreme Court of Canada several times – and won!
In terms of their positive impact on workers’ lives and security, union dues are a good deal.
In UFCW Canada, union dues are paid to the local union to which the member belongs. Most of the dues stay in the local to fund activities such as servicing, representation, organizing, legal costs, education and so on. A small portion goes to the national union to fund activities and programs that benefit UFCW Canada members everywhere.
Each local union’s dues are set in the local’s bylaws, which can only be changed by a vote of the members of that local. In other words, UFCW Canada members set their own dues through democratic processes.