Portland News

Trends in Unions for 2022

By Scott Heric 

Scott Heric, Co-Founder of Unionly, an online payments platform built for unions, discusses what we can expect from and for unions in 2022 

 Just when you were coming to grips with the turmoil of 2020, here comes 2022. 2021 seemed “blink and you’ll miss it” fast, and corporations, union leaders, and members alike are now planning for a year that is bound to bring some changes. We have a union-supporting President in the White House and a union backing House of Representatives. If 2020 and 2021 were times of radical shifts in policy and approach, 2022 is poised to be more of the same and then some. 

 Here are some trends we can expect for unions in the coming year. 


With more baby boomers retiring and millennials taking their place as the dominant generation, more membership and union management tasks are going virtual. Online options for paying dues, hosting meetings, and communicating with union members are becoming the norm. Virtual management will grow in popularity in 2022 and will likely be adopted by more unions, as they have become accustomed to the benefits of taking things virtual. 

Employee Retention 

Workers will see positive steps towards employee retention in 2022. Per statistics, labor participation rates are declining due to older workers aging out, retiring, or passing away. Since the advent of the pandemic, there has been a substantial pushback where labor relations are concerned. “The Great Resignation” took hold in the summer of 2021 and has been wreaking havoc on labor participation rates ever since. 

Unions will start stepping up to fight for employee retention, working in tandem with employers to create better working conditions and environments. 

A Better Mix of Benefits 

Unions were built around an idea of all-encompassing benefits, created to elevate the work experience for the largest number of people. But, with such vast age diversity in workplaces now, workers have different needs. The benefits offered need to cater to those varying needs. 

With retention at the forefront of union and corporation concerns, there will be a better focus on improving benefits and tailoring them to the differing needs of employees. 

Unions Can Expect Better Government Support 

With the election of pro-union President Joe Biden, unions and pro-union employees can expect more government support in 2022. Part of Joe Biden’s plan included strengthening worker organization and collective bargaining. The United States enters 2022 with one of the most pro-union legislatures we’ve had in decades. 

 Union membership has declined over the years, but increased support from Capitol Hill going forward may serve to relight the fire of union participation in 2022. 

Continued Pandemic Fallout 

Union members and leadership will also continue to deal with the ongoing effects of the COVID-19 pandemic in 2022. Remote working looks to be here to stay, and organizations will need updated policies to accommodate remote workers flexibly. 

 With the political and social upheaval we all experienced in 2020 and 2021 came a call for greater leadership accountability. Much like the uprisings that gave birth to the union movement, revolution will continue to beget change. 

Diversity and inclusion are high on the priority list for workers, especially younger employees. Employees don’t want to just be promised diversity initiatives, they want to see them in action. 

The pandemic has also shed light on the importance of safety in the workplace. Vaccine and mask mandates have been enacted at local, state, and even federal levels to lessen the spread of COVID in workplaces. Unions such as the AFL-CIO petitioned the Biden Administration in October of 2021 to add additional protections for workers to his vaccine mandate, including masking requirements. Going into 2022, union leadership will continue to be at the forefront of fighting for worker protection. 

 Much has changed in the last few years, and unions need to stay flexible to remain at the forefront of helping to enact further change. In April of 2021, the New York Times declared a need for a “union revival,” a push to empower workers again amid unprecedented uncertainty. As we usher in 2022, perhaps the union revival will be the most significant trend, marking a new historic time for labor in the United States. 

Opinions expressed by Portland News contributors are their own.