NY State Capitol

All across the country, organized labor is on the defense. Governors in historically labor-friendly states like Wisconsin and Michigan have weakened unions. Membership has declined for decades. In the case of Friedrichs v. California Teachers Association, the U.S. Supreme Court was poised to make it harder for unions to collect fees – and labor groups appear to have dodged that bullet only because Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia died.

In New York, the situation is less gloomy for unions. Membership is actually growing, according to some measures. The governor has joined state lawmakers in rallying behind the cause of organized labor. Just a few weeks ago the state enacted ground-breaking paid family leave legislation and a $15 minimum wage.

But unions in the Empire State face formidable obstacles, from government reliance on temporary employees to the risk posed by other legal challenges working their way through the courts.

In this special section on public-sector unions, City & State takes a closer look at these issues – and more.