With many of our workplaces moving into the appropriate dues structure where members face dues increases, there has been some interest in this important yet sometimes contentious issue. We hope you find this helpful.

Unions are democratic. As such, at 401, the workplace dues structure is decided by our member-elected Executive Board (your Local President, Secretary-Treasurer, Recording Secretary, and member VPs elected by the membership). They have done everything possible to ensure that member dues do not increase. Still, we are reaching the limits of how long we can put off previously approved dues increases in some workplaces where dues are frozen or minimized for an extended time.

Union dues go towards core functions. These functions include: 

  • Representation. 
  • Negotiations.
  • Organizing to increase the number of people we can protect and the number of people who can stand in solidarity with each other.
  • Legal and WCB representation; and 
  • Education and Communications Departments to foster a clear understanding of what unions are and are not, and an effort to empower union members to improve workers’ power to bring about a better workplace and a better world. 

Unions are non-profit organizations. Being a non-profit means that unions are regulated by the government and must follow strict rules about finances, reporting, and governance. A non-profit cannot exist for the personal benefit of any individual or member.

Bargaining is essential for the issues that affect your work life. A good union contract will lose its lustre over time as the world changes and the cost-of-living rises. Recognizing this, regular negotiations are a critical function for winning improvements over time. The cost of paying for time off for union members to participate as part of the negotiating committee, meals, out-of-town travel costs, and legal advice on complex issues are all part of keeping your union contract competitive and benefit every member.

Once negotiated, these types of improvements need policing. The enforcement of a collective agreement is essential for contracts to have continued effectiveness. Thus, the importance of having full-time union representatives who can’t be threatened by an employer and can enforce member rights.


Providing members with these services requires significant sophistication and investment.

Changes to dues will be incremental. We’ll do our best to ensure that members’ dues will not increase if wages don’t. We believe it would be unfair to ask for an increase in dues if you do not receive one yourself. 

When bargaining your next collective agreement, the bargaining committee and negotiator will work to see how a modest increase should be implemented. There may be slight increases that are no more than a couple of pennies per hour, and with that, no increase will be more than 10 cents per hour, per year.