Trade unions have always had to act politically – to campaign for changes in the law to be able to organise and win for their members.

There are still laws in place that restrict trade union activities, including restrictions on trade unions acting politically. In order to spend any money on political activities, trade unions are required to create a separate ‘political fund’. Every ten years, they have to hold an all member vote on whether or not they can continue to hold a political fund.

Unions use their political funds to campaign on political issues that matter to their members. Trade unions that are part of the Labour Party also have to pay affiliation fees – these, plus any donations to the Party, also have to come out of unions’ political funds. 

In 2016, the Conservative Government introduced new restrictions on trade union political funds – new members of the union have to actively opt-in to paying an additional political levy in order for any of their union membership fees to be spent on political activity.

Unions have to report detailed information about their political expenditure to the Certification Officer every year.

None of these laws apply to companies or businesses. Trade union money is the cleanest money in politics.