1. Wisconsin Department of Workforce Development Timeline History: 1883-2004 [Web Page]. 2004. Available at: http://www.dwd.state.wi.us/dwd/dwdhistory/.
    Notes: This website, created by the Wisconsin Department of Workforce Development, provides a detailed timeline identifying the many national ‘firsts’ achieved by Wisconsin in the area of laws protecting workers, documenting the state’s national reputation in this area.

    Known as the Wisconsin Department of Workforce Development since 1996, the department from 1967 to 1996 was called the Wisconsin Department of Industry, Labor and Human Relations (DILHR); from 1911 to 1966, it was known as the Wisconsin Industrial Commission and from 1883 to 1911 as the Wisconsin Bureau of Labor Statistics.

  2. Altmeyer, Arthur Joseph. The Industrial Commission of Wisconsin: A Case Study in Labor Law Administration. Madison, Wis.: University of Wisconsin Press; 1932. 324 p. (University of Wisconsin Studies in Social Sciences and History; no. 17).
    Notes: Revision of Ph.D. thesis, University of Wisconsin, 1931 (American Doctoral Dissertations, L1932). Sources: Stroud & Donahue’s Labor History in the United States: A General Bibliography (1961), item 30; Neufeld’s A Representative Bibliography of American Labor History (1964), p. 42.
  1. Asher, Robert . “The 1911 Wisconsin Workmen’s Compensation Law: A Study in Conservative Labor Reform”. Wisconsin Magazine of History. 1973 Winter-1974 Winter; 57(2):123-140.
    Notes: This article investigates the political circumstances in Wisconsin which finally led to passage of the state’s first broad workmen’s compensation legislation in 1911. The author identifies that the key to passage of the 1911 law was that the “bulk of the Wisconsin progressive Republicans were moderate progressives who … wanted honest, efficient government; they wanted to eliminate waste and rationalize social institutions; they wanted to preserve social stability; and they wanted to blunt the upsurge of Socialist political parties. Nor were they partisans of the working class, out to soak business and redistribute income to labor. Many of these Wisconsin progressives subscribed to Theodore Roosevelt’s ‘square deal’ philosophy and did not forget that this implied a ‘square deal’ for capital as well as labor.” (p. 123) Asher traces how the various elements of the 1911 workmen’s compensation plan came together into the form which finally was enacted into law with the broad support of organizations representing the business community and yet was generally seen by the Wisconsin Federation of Labor as an improvement over the previous legal doctrines which had regulated situations in which a worker had been injured on the job.

    The supporters of the legislation knew a key to achieving reform in this area would be to educate and persuade the key Wisconsin business leaders in order to win their backing. Various reports were therefore produced for the Wisconsin Legislature analyzing the difficulties for society attributable to the distressing situations arising from the current system of liability law involving injured workers, statistics of occupational injuries and deaths, as well as discussion of the financial aspects for businesses and workers of various configurations changes that could be made. Playing crucial roles in the effort were experts, such as Professor John R. Commons, a noted economist at the University of Wisconsin, and Justice Rouget Marshall of the Wisconsin Supreme Court, in addition to Wisconsin’s governor and leaders in both houses of the state’s Legislature.

    This article begins with an interesting quotation by Charles R. McCarthy, the librarian at the Wisconsin Legislative Reference Bureau: “We cannot forever take things which Christianity has approved of since the time of Christ and put them in a bundle and write on the outside ‘Socialistic, don’t touch.’ In all reforms which Christ would have advocated if he were on earth the only way to beat the Socialists is to beat them to it.” [Source: Charles R. McCarthy, 1910 speech, in the McCarthy Papers, Archives-Manuscripts Division, State Historical Society of Wisconsin]

  2. Brown, Ray A. The Administration of Workmen’s Compensation. Madison, Wis.: University of Wisconsin Press; 1933. 88 p. (University of Wisconsin Studies in the Social Sciences and History; no. 19). Notes: Source: Stroud & Donahue’s Labor History in the United States: A General Bibliography (1961), item 245.
  1. Commons, John R. “The La Follette Railroad Law in Wisconsin”. American Monthly Review of Reviews: An International Magazine. 1905 (July-December); 32(1):76-79.
    Notes: This article describes the railroad law, enacted by the 1905 Wisconsin legislature and signed by Governor Robert M. La Follette, which created a Wisconsin state railroad commission composed of three appointed commissioners with authority to review the charges and services of any type of railroad operating in Wisconsin and with legal mechanisms available to the new commission for enforcing its rulings. Dissatisfaction with the operation of railroads in Wisconsin had been widespread enough to have become an issue in the 1904 Wisconsin governor’s race. Commons, the influential University of Wisconsin professor, sketches the political maneuvers of the reformers versus the railroads in crafting the new legislation and takes careful note of the similarities and differences between the new Wisconsin railroad commission and comparable commissions in several other states. This item is included by James O. Morris in his Bibliography of Industrial Relations in the Railroad Industry (Ithaca, N.Y.: New York State School of Industrial and Labor Relations, Cornell University, 1975), p. 76.
  2. Commons, John R. “Operation of Minimum Wage Laws in Wisconsin”. IN: National Consumers’ League. State Minimum Wage Laws in Practice. [New York?]: The League; 1924; p. Pt. II.
  3. Feinsinger, Nathan P. and Rice, William Gorham Jr. The Wisconsin Labor Relations Act. Madison, Wis.: University of Wisconsin; 1937. 78 p. (Bulletin of the University of Wisconsin; Serial No. 2254, General Series No. 2038, June 1937).
    Notes: A guide, in non-technical language, to the requirements of the Wisconsin Labor Relations Act which took effect on April 15, 1937 and which in general followed the provisions of the 1935 National Labor Relations Act. In their preface, the authors state that they have “tried only to trace the history and background of the measure, to clarify the main provisions, and to point out their interrelation, in order to enable the reader to grasp the statute as a whole” (p. 5-6). The Wisconsin Labor Relations Act had the full support of then Wisconsin Governor Philip F. La Follette and this volume contains the full text of his radio address on June 1, 1937 in which he says (p. 76), “The Wisconsin Labor Relations Act is the greatest achievement in behalf of the rights of labor yet placed upon the [statute] books in this country. It fully guarantees and grants to labor recognition of its right to equality in bargaining with employers.” In the very next Wisconsin legislature, however, a combination of the state’s employers’ rights organizations and farmers’ organizations undid the progressive features of the Wisconsin Labor Relations Act through passage of the Wisconsin Employment Peace Act, which placed quite severe restrictions on the operations of unions in Wisconsin; the Wisconsin Employment Peace Act was one of the models for the restrictive federal Taft-Hartley Act of 1947, which amended in the same manner the federal National Labor Relations Act of 1935.
  4. Hafer, Hugh J. “A Study of the Wisconsin Employment Peace Act, Part I: Selection of Collective Bargaining Representatives”. Wisconsin Law Review. 1956 Mar; ???
  5. —. “A Study of the Wisconsin Employment Peace Act, Part II: Union Security”. Wisconsin Law Review. 1956 May; ???
  6. —. “A Study of the Wisconsin Employment Peace Act, Part III: Unfair Labor Practices”. Wisconsin Law Review. 1957 Jan; ???
  7. Haferbecker, Gordon M. The Wisconsin Idea in Industrial Safety. Madison, Wis.: University of Wisconsin, Industrial Relations Center; 1953. 27 p.

    Notes: A review of the Industrial Commission Act, a piece of Wisconsin legislation passed in 1911 upon the urging of John R. Commons, the influential University of Wisconsin professor; the new act repealed the former multiplicity of individual legislative statutes on safety and sanitary requirements for industry and instead, for the first time in the United States, adopted the European model of handling industrial safety. The key provisions of the 1911 act were that employers were required to provide safe places of employment and also work which could be performed safely; an Industrial Commission was established in Wisconsin; the Industrial Commission had the authority, upon consultation with experts, employers and workers, to issue administrative rules regarding industrial safety and sanitation; and that the Industrial Commission had the power to enforce its regulations. By the time of publication of this work (1953), thirty-five other states had also changed to an industrial safety process similar to this Wisconsin model.

  1. —. Wisconsin Labor Laws. Madison, Wis.: University of Wisconsin Press; 1958. 211 p.
    Notes: A revision of the author’s thesis (Ph.D.)–University of Wisconsin, 1952. Wisconsin led the way for the nation in a wave of labor legislation improvements from around 1905 up to the start of World War I pioneering with new ideas and legislation; then, from the 1930s on, Wisconsin was often the first state to make a success of new national labor legislation. The author looks at how labor legislation developed in Wisconsin from the 1860s up to the time of this book’s publication (1958) and discusses Wisconsin’s role in both protective labor legislation and labor relations legislation; subjects covered include industrial safety, workmen’s compensation, child labor, hours of labor, wage legislation, employment offices, unemployment compensation, apprenticeship, labor relations and fair employment.
  2. Haferbecker, Gordon M. “Wisconsin Labor Legislation”; 1952.
    Notes: Ph.D. thesis, University of Wisconsin, 1952. (American Doctoral Dissertations , W1952).
  3. Hinton, John W. Workingmen and the Tariff: An Address to the Workingmen of Bay View, Delivered in Puddler’s Hall, Milwaukee, Wisconsin, Before the Bay View Literary Society, January 31, 1880, Reported Especially for “The Bay View National Bureau,” A.E. Vanderpool, Proprietor. [Milwaukee, Wis.]: [Bay View National Bureau]; [1880]. 16 p.

    Notes: Paper copy available at the library of the Wisconsin Historical Society, call number Pamphlet 90-4389.
    Online facsimile available at: http://www.wisconsinhistory.org/turningpoints/search.asp?id=1237.

    John W. Hinton, who would represent the Northwestern Tariff Bureau at the 1881 National Tariff Conference held at the Cooper Institute in New York city, gave this speech to the iron workers of Bay View, Wisconsin, in their headquarters at Puddler’s Hall, near the Bay View Rolling Mills. Early in the address in support of protectionism, Hinton says: “In the coming contest upon this question of Protection to American Industry, or Protection to foreign industry, for that is the question, and the issue that will soon be presented for our decision, we in this country, thank God, need not use the lance or the sword. Under our free government we have the BALLOT, which wills no man to be a slave.” (p. [3])

    This printed document was selected for inclusion in the “Turning Points in Wisconsin History” website of the Wisconsin Historical Society and an on-line facsimile of the entire document will be found at: http://www.wisconsinhistory.org/turningpoints/search.asp?id=1237. There it is introduced with the following paragraph:

    “Tariffs were a key political and economic issue throughout the nineteenth century, with industrial interests generally in favor and farmers opposed. High import tariffs, paid by overseas manufacturers who wanted access to U.S. markets, gave U.S. manufacturers an advantage while providing revenue for the federal Treasury. Critics of tariffs argued that consumers paid higher prices because tariffs established high base prices that increased profit for manufacturers but did not help American workers. Hinton cites as evidence the increasing number of European immigrants coming to work in American factories, fleeing the free trade, tariff-free countries of Europe.”

    15. Holter, Darryl. “Labor Law and the Road to Taft-Hartley: Wisconsin’s ‘Little Wagner Act,’ 1935-1945. Labor Studies Journal. 1990 Summer; 15(2):[20]-47.

    Notes: An interesting article in which Holter makes use of the almost 700 labor dispute case files created by the Wisconsin Labor Relations Board (WLRB) during its short life span from 1937 to 1939 to illuminate the tension between what labor can gain through organizational strength and through the legislative process. The WLRB had been created by the Wisconsin Labor Relations Act of 1937, which was known as the “Little Wagner Act,” because it mirrored much of the federal Wagner Act, the National Labor Relations Act of 1935 (which created the National Labor Relations Board). Because the WLRB used a standardized form to record information about each labor dispute in which it was involved, and because the State Historical Society of Wisconsin has preserved almost all of these WLRB labor dispute files, Holter was able to undertake a useful statistical analysis of the work of the WLRB during its two years of existence.

    Since the state’s business community perceived the federal Wagner Act and Wisconsin’s “Little Wagner Act” as being pro-labor and anti-business, a business-led campaign quickly followed in the next Wisconsin legislative session to modify the state law to signficantly increase its pro-business provisions. In 1939 the Wisconsin legislature passed the Wisconsin Employment Peace Act, which placed restrictive conditions on the operations of unions in Wisconsin and created a new entity, the Wisconsin Employment Relations Board, to replace the Wisconsin Labor Relations Board. Later the Wisconsin Employment Peace Act of 1939 was to be used as one of the models for the federal Taft-Hartley Act of 1947, which amended in a similar, restrictive manner the federal National Labor Relations Act of 1935.

  1. —. “Labor Spies and Union-Busting in Wisconsin, 1890-1940”. Wisconsin Magazine of History. 1985 Summer; 68(4):[242]-265.

    Notes: In 1925 Wisconsin union leaders, after twenty years of effort, were able to get significant restrictions placed in state law on the union-harassing activities of employers, especially regarding labor spies; other states later followed Wisconsin’s lead and enacted similar legislation. Besides exploring the legislative and organizational tactics used from 1890 to 1940 by the Wisconsin labor movement to combat labor spying, this fascinating article discusses how labor spies actually operated, how detective agencies began offering this specialized service, and how the 1925 law affected the operation of detective agencies doing this type of work in Wisconsin.

    The author provides an in-depth example of each of the two situations in which labor spies were used; the strike discussed is that against the Allen-A Hosiery company in Kenosha, Wisconsin from 1928 to 1930 by members of Branch 6 of the American Federation of Full Fashioned Hosiery Workers, United Textile Workers of America and, for the second situation, he uses the Western Paper Makers Association (a manufacturers’ association led by David Clark Everest) and their activities to suppress unions among paper mill workers in central Wisconsin along the Fox, Wisconsin, Marinette, Eau Claire and Peshtigo Rivers. The article also examines the helpful role of congressional hearings held from 1936 to 1940 by the U.S. Senator from Wisconsin, Robert La Follette, Jr.

    The State Historical Society of Wisconsin named this article as the winner of the annual William Best Hesseltine Award for the best article to be published in the Wisconsin Magazine of History during the year.

    Also: Holter, Darryl O. Labor Spies and Union Busting in Wisconsin, 1890-1940. [Milwaukee? Wis.: D.O. Holter?, 1987?, c1985. 24 p. Article reprinted by permission from the Wisconsin Magazine of History, v. 68, no. 4 (Summer 1985).

  2. Houlihan, William C. “Interest Arbitration and Municipal Employee Bargaining: The Wisconsin Experience”. IN: Najita, Joyce M. and James L. Stern, editors. Collective Bargaining in the Public Sector: The Experience of Eight States. Armonk, N.Y.: M.E. Sharpe, Inc.; 2001; pp. 69-105.
  3. Kossoris, Max D. and Fried, O. A. “Experience with Silicosis Under the Wisconsin Workmen’s Compensation Act”. Monthly Labor Review. 1937 May; 1089-1101???
  4. Krause, Robert D. “The Short Troubled History of Wisconsin’s New Labor Law”. Public Administration Review. 1965; 25(4):302-307.
  5. Nelson, Daniel. “Origins of Unemployment Insurance in Wisconsin”. Wisconsin Magazine of History. 1967 Winter-1968 Winter; 51(2):109-121.

    Notes: Explains how Wisconsin in 1932 became the first state in the union to pass an unemployment insurance act. Unemployment and accident insurance was well-known in Great Britain and other parts of Europe by beginning of the 1900s and Wisconsin labor leaders began introducing similar legislative bills as early as 1905, eventually winning in 1911 the creation of a state Industrial Commission to enforce the state’s labor laws. John R. Commons, the influential University of Wisconsin professor, was appointed to a term on the new commission and he soon became very involved in trying to find a workable, long-term solution to unemployment and workplace accidents. Commons’ coalition of progressive academic colleagues both in Wisconsin and nationally gave speeches, did research, issued reports and put on conferences to build momentum. As early as 1919 leaders of the Wisconsin labor movement began working closely with the university reformers to accomplish their joint legislative goals. This article goes into considerable detail about the coalition of interest groups which formed around this issue and the legislative techniques they used to finally win the campaign in 1932.

  1. Padway, Joseph A. Handbook on the Wisconsin Labor Relations Act. Milwaukee, Wis.: Wisconsin State Federation of Labor; 1937. ???
  2. Rector, Stanley. “Unemployment Compensation Act”. Wisconsin Law Review. 1936 Feb; ???
  3. Reuss, Henry J. “Thirty Years of the Safe Place Statute”. Wisconsin Law Review. 1940 May; ???
  4. Rice, William Gorham Jr. “The Wisconsin Labor Relations Act in 1937”. Wisconsin Law Review. 1938; (???).
  5. Schmidt, Gertrude. “History of Labor Legislation in Wisconsin”; 1933.
    Notes: Ph.D thesis, University of Wisconsin, 1933. 418 p. (American Doctoral Dissertations, S0262).
  6. Schwartzman, Eva Jacobs. “Collective Bargaining–Designation of Unit and Representative: Comparison of National and Wisconsin Acts”. Wisconsin Law Review. 1942 Mar; ???
  7. —. “Free Speech and the Wisconsin Employment Relations Act”. Wisconsin Law Review. 1943 Mar; ???
  8. Wisconsin State Federation of Labor. Labor’s Rights Under the 1939 Wisconsin Labor Laws. Milwaukee, Wis.: Wisconsin State Federation of Labor; 1939? 11 p.

    Notes: Written and distributed by the Wisconsin Federation of Labor, this pamphlet discusses the new legal requirements for Wisconsin unions found in Chapters 25 and 57 of the Wisconsin Laws of 1939 and presents the position of the Wisconsin Federation of Labor’s views regarding the unconstitutionality of many of the provisions of the two new laws, which the federation intended to challenge in the courts. Chapter 25, known as the Catlin Bill, made amendments to Wisconsin’s Labor Code to greatly restrict the lawful instances in which pickets and picketing could be used in labor disagreements; while Chapter 57, known as the “Wisconsin Employment Peace Act,” essentially nullified passage of the “Wisconsin Labor Relations Act” passed just two years earlier. The Wisconsin Labor Relations Act, passed in 1937 by the previous Wisconsin Legislature, was also known as “Wisconsin’s Little Wagner Act” because its provisions were modeled on those the the federal government’s “National Labor Relations Act” of 1935 (known informally as the Wagner Act, in honor of its key sponsor, Sen. Robert F. Wagner, D-N.Y.)