Wisconsin Labor History Society


The Wisconsin Labor History Society is dedicated to preserving and telling the stories of workers and unions in Wisconsin.

Endorsed by the Wisconsin State AFL-CIO

Affiliated with the Wisconsin Historical Society


34th Annual Conference looks to history to strengthen unions

The 34th Annual Conference of the Wisconsin Labor History Society looks to finding clues in worker history to discover strategies to strengthen unions.

Entitled “Building Worker Power in an Era of Anti-Union Assaults: Looking Back, Looking Forward,” the conference will be held from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m., Saturday, April 11, at the Madison Labor Temple, 1602 S. Park St., Madison.

Much of the conference will be focused on recent efforts to weaken unions, such as Wisconsin’s Act 10 that took away most collective bargaining rights of public employees and current efforts to pass open shop laws in the state (often erroneously referred to as “right-to-work” legislation).  For more information and registration form, click here.



Renew Membership NOW for 2015!

NOW you may renew your membership in the Wisconsin Labor History Society online through PayPal. It’s quick and it’s secure.  CLICK HERE

Society offers three ways to engage students in learning labor history

Too often Wisconsin students leave school without ever learning about how important labor was to their families and communities. Again this school year, the Wisconsin Labor History Society will offer three ways to reward students, from middle school through college, for projects and studies of the state’s unions. They are:

Essay contest for students (grades 9 through 12) on the topic, “Unions are important to my family and community because . . .” Cash prizes of $100 to $500 will be awarded for the best essays of about 750 words. (Click here for details and entry instructions)

National History Day entries (Middle and High School) that have a labor history theme will be eligible for prizes totaling $1,000, distributed to winning exhibits or projects in both regional and statewide competitions. (Click here for more details)

Zeidler Academic Awards (undergraduate and graduate college levels) offer cash awards for academic papers on topics of Wisconsin Labor History. The winning undergraduate paper will get $500 and the top graduate paper $1,000. Click here.

The Society has established a “Labor in the Schools Fund” that seeks special contributions from Wisconsin unionists and others to help pay for the prizes that are awarded, plus associated costs. During October, Wisconsin State AFL-CIO President Phil Neuenfeldt and Secretary-Treasurer Stephanie Bloomingdale sent a message to affiliates urging them to consider making donations.

The message also urged that union members to encourage children to participate and to press schools to support the contests.

Historic Kohler strikes offer lessons for today’s unions; 100 attend 33rd annual conference of Labor History Society

The longest strike in U.S. history – UAW Local 833 vs. Kohler Co – began in the company town of Kohler, Wisconsin, with massive picket lines on April 5, 1954 and did not end until a settlement in 1966.

The strike may have been one of the most important in our nation’s history and offers insights into how to rebuild labor’s power in the current era, according to speakers at the 33rd Annual Conference of the Wisconsin Labor History Society held May 17 at the Emil Mazey Hall in Sheboygan.  The conference covered three decades of labor struggles at the plant, including the first strike for recognition that lasted from 1934 to 1941.

Several Local 833 retirees who walked the picket lines in the 1954 strike spoke at the conference, describing how worker solidarity sustained them through the long struggle and how various strategies helped to win near total victory.  Read more . . . 


128th Anniversary of Bay View Tragedy honors courage of victims of 1886 Massacre

More than 300 persons attended the 128th Anniversary Commemoration of the Bay View Tragedy on May 4th  to honor the seven who were killed by the militia while marching on behalf of the eight-hour day campaign on May 5, 1886, outside the Bay View Rolling Mills.

In a short, but stirring speech, Wisconsin State AFL-CIO President Phil Neuenfeldt declared “the courage and sacrifice of these workers and victims of the Bay View Massacre lives on.”  The crowd was further stirred on the sunny day with songs from longtime folksinger Larry Penn and the Solidarity Singers of Madison.  Amateur actors assisting professionals staged a re-enactment of the 1886 event that was created and led by the Milwaukee Public Theatre and the Milwaukee Mask and Puppet Theatre.

The event was held on the site of the State Historical Mark for the Bay View Rolling Mills, S. Superior St. and E. Russell Ave., Milwaukee.  Read more . . . 


Wisconsin Labor History in Slides

A quick look at labor history in Wisconsin may be seen by viewing the slides presented at the 2014 Wisconsin State AFL-CIO Community Services Conference in Madison on March  21.  Click on  “Wis Labor History Slides.”  You may download it and show it at meetings and other opportunities.



A message from President Steve Cupery:

If you are not now a member, please join to support our work of providing students, teachers and the public with valuable information, curricular materials, education and research opportunities concerning Wisconsin labor history.  Become a member of the Wisconsin Labor History Society.

We have made it convenient to join:

First, we have a membership application form at our website that you may print out, fill in the blanks and mail back.  Click here for form.

Secondly, you may use your credit or debit card (or PayPal) to pay your membership.  Click here for instructions.

We can’t overstate the value that your membership provides to our organization.  As you know we are a completely volunteer organization, but it takes money to continue to carry on our work of preserving the history of workers and their unions in Wisconsin and to promote the study of that history in our schools.  All of our activities exist solely because of support from our members, whether they be individuals or local unions, labor councils or other organizations.

During this critical time facing our labor movement, we are confident that the telling of labor’s story to the public, particularly to our schoolchildren, is more important than ever.

Please help us continue our mission.  Act today!

Please consider joining us now. Check it out here.