In Wisconsin and other states, benefits changes are creating another kind of have and have-not dichotomy: Older union members, who negotiated their packages in happier economic times, now are well off. Younger members and new hires, by contrast, have to settle for packages more pinched, less generous.
Madison's police union marchers, said Favour, were, for the most part, younger people who've been on the force only a few years. Their reduced benefits, he said, are "a fundamental change to what they'd anticipated in terms of compensation."
Ordinarily, said Cornell's Hurd, that disparity would lead to dissention in the ranks between young and old -- a fracturing of solidarity. Not so now, however.
"Nothing so unifies labor as this kind of challenge to what they see as a fundamental right," Hurd said.
Internal resentments between veterans and new hires trend to disappear, and the two sides draw together for mutual defense.
"This kind of challenge to their right to exist will force them to become even more aggressive politically," Hurd said. "It will be a long-term political fight."
Reversals are to be expected: A number of states, including Kentucky and New Mexico, have enacted changes to collective bargaining only to see them undone two years later.
"It's not unusual to see reversals, one administration to the next," Hurd said.
On Wednesday, before the Democrats' walk-out, Gov. Walker, asked by ABC News if he thought he had enough votes to assure passage of his bill, said, "Absolutely. We're waiting for some amendments, which we expect to receive within the hour. It will pass out of committee today. By the end of the week, it will have passed both houses."
As for the protesters, he questioned whether there really were as many as 30,000. But if there were, "it's a small percentage of the 300,000 state and government workers," not to mention of 5.5 million state taxpayers.
"I said today, earlier, that the people in the street have the right to be heard, but not to drown out the voices of 5.5 million."