In December 2009, Assembly Bill 172 was signed into law, making Wisconsin the first state to require the incorporation of the "history of organized labor and the collective bargaining process" into the state standards for social studies.
A statewide workgroup met in December 2010 to research and discuss this change. The group analyzed Wisconsin's Model Academic Standards for Social Studies to find where the requirement best fit. Note the section on standards below, as well as the section marked "Reflections of the Workgroup".
The requirements of Wisc. Stat. sec. 115.28(55) were incorporated into the social studies standards during the 2017/18 standards revision cycle. Changes can be found in the Wisconsin Standards for Social Studies (2018).
Wisconsin Standards for Social Studies
Alignment to the history of organized labor and the collective bargaining process in the 2018 Wisconsin Standards for Social Studies can be located in the following places:
- Economics standard 4: Wisconsin students will evaluate government decisions and their impact in individuals, businesses, markets, and resources (Role of Government), specifically standard 4b (Institutions) (p32), and 4d (Impact of Government Interventions) (p33).
- History Overview: Historical Eras and Themes (p42) states "4. The history of organized labor and the collective bargaining process" as a topic for exploration.
Note that Wisconsin standards are performance based, and there are many places where local and district choice of content such as labor unions could match up to performance standards in social studies. This is not considered an exhaustive list, as there are many points in a district curriculum where the history of labor and the collective bargaining process could be incorporated into classrooms..
Reflections of the Workgroup
The workgroup focused on two broad questions under the topic of incorporating labor history into the standards.
What do you want students to know about the history of organized labor and the collective bargaining process?
- Work-related definitions;
- Ways unions and collective bargaining have affected society in the United States;
- The role of labor today; and
- Wisconsin historical events related to labor.
What do you want students to gain from learning the history of organized labor and the collective bargaining process?
- Viewing history and the system with a critical eye;
- Use terms and concepts appropriately;
- Emphasize critical thinking skills and historical perspective;
- Explain and critique the actions of labor unions in the United States;
- Understand how U.S. employers have interacted with unions and collective bargaining;
- Ask meaningful questions about organized labor and collective bargaining; and
- Be able to discuss cogently and cite historical examples to explain the causes, origins, and context of unionization and collective bargaining in the U.S.
Labor History Resources
Resources that may help you determine how labor history fits into your local curriculum:
The Shanker Institute has released a report entitled, "American Labor in U.S. History Textbooks."
The Occupational Folklife Project through the American Folklife Center at the Library of Congress
Wisconsin Act 10 was implemented in 2011 as "an act relating to: state finances, collective bargaining for public employees, compensation and fringe benefits of public employees, the state civil service system, the Medical Assistance program”.
This is an important event in the history of organized labor and the collective bargaining process in Wisconsin.