Could labor finally get its day?
The Workplace Democracy Act has yet to gain traction in Congress, but if passed it would shatter the employer-employee dynamic in Madison.
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Timeline of Wisconsin labor history
1847 — Milwaukee bricklayers form first known union in Wisconsin.
1848 — Carpenters call first strike in Wisconsin.
1867 — Knights of St. Crispin, a union of shoemakers, is founded in Milwaukee. It was the nation’s largest union until its demise during the Panic of 1873.
1886 — Bay View Tragedy: State militia members kill seven workers on peaceful march for establishing the eight-hour workday. It remains Wisconsin’s worst labor violence.
1893 — Wisconsin State Federation of Labor founded (predecessor of Wisconsin State AFL-CIO).
1897 — Formation of Socialist Party in Milwaukee, which helped to develop much of the progressive action in Milwaukee and the state of Wisconsin.
1898 — Citywide strike of woodworkers in Oshkosh from May 6 through Aug. 19 puts thousands of workers on strike against most major industrialists and civic leaders of city. One striker killed in a melee. Conspiracy charges placed on union leaders, but beaten back after dramatic trial led by famed defense attorney Clarence Darrow.
1905 — First Wisconsin civil service law passed.
1911 — Wisconsin passes nation’s first workers’ compensation law.
1931 — Davis-Bacon Act calls for prevailing wages on public projects; similar Wisconsin law is passed.
1932 — Wisconsin passes the first unemployment compensation law in the nation.
1935 — American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees Union founded in Madison.
1936-1939 — Workers organize into unions after passage of Wagner Act; hundreds of thousands join, from Kenosha to Superior, making Wisconsin one of most heavily unionized states.
1937 — Wisconsin Employment Relations Act is approved, supporting the right to unionize, two years after the National Labor Relations Act is approved at the federal level.
1945 — Wisconsin is one of the first three states to bar employment discrimination on the basis of race, creed, national origin, or ancestry.
1946-1947 — A long strike at Allis-Chalmers Manufacturing Company in West Allis becomes a national symbol of the struggle for shop floor rights and the debate over the role of communism in unions.
1958 — Wisconsin State AFL-CIO created through merger of the State Federation of Labor and Wisconsin CIO.
1959 — Wisconsin allows local government workers to bargain collectively, becoming on of the first states to do so. Later, an amendment was added giving Wisconsin teachers the right to organize.
1963-1970 — Migrant farmworkers organize in Wisconsin, aided by widespread support of unions, AFL-CIO, church groups, and others.
1965 — Long strike by UAW at Kohler Company, begun in 1954, ends with union and company establishing peaceful relations.
1967 — Wisconsin state workers given bargaining rights, five years after federal workers were granted similar rights.
1974 — The Hortonville teachers strike occurs after 10 months of negotiations between the Hortonville Education Association and Hortonville school board grind to a halt. At the time, some teachers in the district had been teaching for over five years without a contract.
1993 — Wisconsin Family and Medical Leave Act takes effect.
2011 — Wisconsin law, under court challenge, bars most collective bargaining by most public unions, spurring massive protests at the Capitol and election recalls.
2015 — Wisconsin right-to-work law enacted.
Sources: Wisconsin Historical Society, Wisconsin Department of Workforce Development, AFL-CIO, Wisconsin Education Association Council, Bureau of Labor Statistics
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