This can be a very touchy subject for Senate mainline Democrats, who can get a little Al Roker on you if you dare to bring it up. But something is happening this election cycle which is a stiff departure from two years ago. Primarily labor’s involvement.

Two years ago, with an assist from Mayor De Blasio, Democrats vowed to take back control of the State Senate. They failed in their efforts ( although one could argue that numerically speaking they actually succeeded but politics prevents a sitting Democratic Majority ). They also left a trail of bitter feelings among Republicans and the Independent Democratic Conference, whose members had to fight off primaries. This time around not a single IDC member has a primary opponent. The labor unions appear to be standing down. This is not a completely hands off approach, but the endorsements this year speak volumes.

In 2014 NYSUT backed a full slate of Democratic candidates including Dave Dennenberg, Adrienne Esposito, Justin Wagner, Terry Gipson, Elaine Altman, Cecilia Tkacyk and Johnny Destino all of whom lost. In 2016 it’s much more of a mixed bag with NYSUT backing mostly incumbents including IDC members and Republicans. The outliers are Adam Haber and Todd Kaminsky on Long Island who have the union’s backing, Chris Eachus, and Terry Gipson once again in the Hudson Valley ( not sure what it is with this guy, but everyone seems to love him ).

The AFL-CIO endorsements tell a similar story. In 2014 the union backed the unsuccessful candidacies of Dave Denenberg, Justin Wagner, Ted O’Brien, Elaine Altman, Cecilia Tkacyk and ( of course ) Terry Gipson. This year, the AFL-CIO is staying neutral in some races, but mostly endorsing incumbents from both parties. The exceptions are Adam Haber and ( it kinda goes without saying ) Terry Gipson. Obviously more endorsements could come out later, but for now they feel a lot less all-Democrats-all-the-time than they did in 2014. As one GOP insider put it, the takeaway here is that “if it’s a wash, that is actually a big win for Republicans.” The lack of strong backing from unions could lead to money problems for Dems, and we already know that 1199 is giving Republicans money to maintain control of the Senate.

So what is going on here? For starters, the unions got a lot of what they wanted this year with the GOP-IDC coalition in control of the Senate. That includes a robust paid family leave program, and a path to a $15 minimum wage. These two things were unthinkable as recently as last year. For working people both of these new policies will make a huge difference in their lives. And they got it without a Democratic majority, or as one observer keenly noted, the unions “got what they wanted without having what they were told they needed.”

Secondly, Senate Majority Leader John Flanagan has made a real push to court the unions. For example at the NYSUT convention at the Desmond in Albany last week, Flanagan spoke to the members first, then hung around and took their questions for roughly two and half hours. Presumably in that soft spoken, mild mannered way of his. Flanagan is a lot more in the weeds when it comes to policy than his predecessor Dean Skelos. And as the former Chair of the Education Committee, Flanagan can speak to teachers in a language they understand. Part of this is self preservation and survival. Flanagan can read the polls like anybody else which warn of an anti-Trump tsunami at the ballot box this fall. He knows that down ballot races could be impacted should the anti-Trump vote materialize in the way liberals insist that it will. And that gets us to the final point, which is Flanagan’s relationship with IDC Leader Jeff Klein. People close to both men say it’s very strong. I used to think of Klein and Skelos as something like this, but the reality was actually far different. Both known for their flaring tempers, Skelos and Klein would sometimes yell past each other. But Klein respects Flanagan’s policy knowledge and the way he handles the conference.

Democratic sources seem confident that if they win enough seats, a reconciliation between the two Democratic factions will commence. I’m told that “talks are already underway.” However, GOP sources say they too “feel as though they are in a good spot” with the IDC, meaning the coalition could continue. If recent history is any guide, Senate Democrats have always picked up seats in Presidential election years. That’s likely to happen again this year, but the IDC decision on who to work with could still be critical to who controls the Senate. Democrats are telling people to expect a Democratic majority, but some in labor at least, appear to be hedging their bets.