“Up until now, the key role that America's labor unions played in building our country was the greatest story never told in history textbooks,” said Phil Neuenfeldt, Secretary-Treasurer of the Wisconsin State AFL-CIO. “This law corrects that glaring omission. Wisconsin youth will learn how generations before them organized unions to improve working conditions and fight for the common good.”
“This is the first such legislation in the nation. It will help balance the overwhelming business bias found in textbooks,” commented Wisconsin State AFL-CIO President David Newby. “Thanks to the new requirements, young people will be better prepared to make the continuing improvements necessary in today’s workplaces.”
The history of workers and their unions is central to the history of the United States. That history will finally be part of our statewide public school curriculum.
Wisconsin workers have been at the forefront of the struggle for a just workplace. Some lost their lives to establish working conditions that are now taken for granted. For example, in Milwaukee in 1886 several workers were killed by the state militia while marching to limit the workday to eight hours.
In Wisconsin, labor led the historic battle to create the first workers’ compensation and unemployment insurance systems in the entire nation. Whether it is opposing unfair trade agreements, raising the minimum wage, or fighting for health care for all, union members continue to be at the forefront of the movement for social and economic justice.
The Wisconsin Labor History Society has a collection of excellent labor history materials on its website (https://www.wisconsinlaborhistory.org/).
In addition, the American Labor Studies Center has already developed a wealth of materials to help bring labor history to life in our schools, which can be viewed at www.labor-studies.org. This website includes “Lessons in Labor History,” which was developed by the Wisconsin State AFL-CIO, the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction, the Wisconsin Labor History Society, the Wisconsin Federation of Teachers (now AFT-Wisconsin) and the Wisconsin Education Association Council (WEAC) to promote teaching of labor history in Wisconsin by linking labor history to required teaching standards.
(Top Photo: Governor Doyle signs AB172 with Wisconsin State AFL-CIO Secretary-Treasurer Phil Neuenfeldt and other labor leaders looking on. Bottom Photo: Labor delegation with Governor Doyle outside of the signing ceremony. Credit for Both Photos: Union Labor News.)