Wednesday, December 16, 2009

In Wisconsin Labor History in Schools Bill Becomes Law!

Labor History in Schools Bill Becomes Law!

Gov. Doyle puts signature on the bill; calls for labor history to be state standard.
Governor Jim Doyle made it official Thursday, Dec. 10: He signed into law AB 172, the Labor History in the Schools bill, culminating 12 years of efforts by key legislators, workers, unions and others to pass legislation to assure the teaching of labor history and collective bargaining.

More than 50 persons crowded into the governor’s conference room as he used four pens to sign the historic bill that will make the teaching of labor history and collective bargaining part of the state’s standards for public schools in Wisconsin.

“Once again Wisconsin leads the way in progressive labor legislation,” commented Steve Cupery, president of the Wisconsin Labor History Society. “As far as we can tell, Wisconsin is the first state to have enacted such a law. We expect others will follow our example.”

John Wagnitz, on the staff of Sen. Dave Hansen (D-Green Bay), said that the senator’s office has been getting inquiries from around the nation about the bill. Sen. Hansen and Rep. Andy Jorgensen (D-Fort Atkinson) co-authored the bill. It passed both houses of the legislature, with most Democrats in support, along with a few Republican members. Much of the work in developing the current bill was done in the Assembly’s Committee on Labor, chaired by Rep. (and former school board member) Christine Sinicki (D-Milwaukee).

In signing the bill, Gov. Doyle cited the importance of elections to achieving legislative goals. He recalled the lengthy effort to pass the bill, with it often passing one house of the legislature, and being stranded in the other.

He said for the first time in the last dozen years both houses of the Legislature, and the governor’s office, were in control of Democrats, nearly all of whom support legislation calling for teaching of labor history and collective bargaining in the schools.

"I'm happy to sign this bill so that Wisconsin students understand how important the labor movement was in creating some of the most basic workplace rights that Wisconsin families enjoy today," Governor Doyle said.

The Wisconsin Labor History Society has made the teaching of labor history in the schools one of its key objectives since its founding in 1981. As early as 1985, the WLHS worked with the State Superintendent of Public Instruction Bert Grover to involve labor history in state instruction plans.

The long battle to pass legislation that urged the teaching of Labor History in the Schools began with a dedicated effort in the 1997-98 Legislative session when the first bill was introduced. (See Legislative History Below)

To implement the new law, the WLHS will assist teachers, school districts, parents and students to access materials that provides information about union history and collective bargaining.

WLHS has established a curriculum committee, chaired by Jim Lorence, emeritus professor of history at UW-Marathon County, to work on providing additional materials to assist teachers and students to fulfill the purpose of the new law.

“We look forward to working with DPI on developing their materials for our public schools,” Cupery said.

The annual conference of the WLHS which will be held April 17, 2010, in Milwaukee will focus on providing both community and teacher support for implementing the new law. Membership in the WLHS will go toward supporting these efforts. For more information, go to

Also instrumental in attending hearings, offering testimony, making legislative contacts and doing other activities in support of the bill through the 12 years were:

Wisconsin State AFL-CIO, David Newby, president; Phil Neuenfeldt, secretary-treasurer; Joanne Ricca, legislative representative;

Wisconsin Education Association Council (WEAC)

Many of the state’s unions and members.

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