- 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]”
- Stone, Milan O.”. IN: Fink, Gary M., editor-in-chief. Biographical Dictionary of American Labor. Rev. ed. Westport, Conn.: Greenwood Press; 1984; p. 531.
- Obach, Brian. “The Wisconsin Labor-Environmental Network: A Case Study of Coalition Formation Among Organized Labor and the Environmental Movement”. Organization and Environment. 1999 Mar; 12(1):45-74.