Under a cloud of layoffs, internal bickering, and federal investigations, labor leaders gather this week for their annual meeting. "Unions are clearly in a defensive mode," said Richard W. Hurd, a labor relations professor at Cornell University. "Unionized operations have been hit disproportionately by layoffs. It's a tough period right now for labor." More bad news looms as the Bureau of Labor Statistics is about to release its annual report on union membership, which is expected to have continued its decades long decline. Many leaders believe the AFL-CIO needs to have one single focus: increasing membership. There is also a need for President Bush to support legislation that will make organizing easier, but some question the wisdom of working with Mr. Bush who supported keeping unions out of the new Homeland Security Department and is pushing for tax cuts that help the rich disproportionately.