By Darryl Holter
Wisconsin accounts for about two percent of the nation's total population, but its contribution to the history of working people and social reform extends far beyond these numbers. In the early years of the twentieth century, Wisconsin became a veritable laboratory for social and political reform, producing such landmark legislation as workers' compensation, unemployment insurance, and other laws that became models for several states and helped shape federal labor policies. The study of the history of labor also began in Wisconsin when University of Wisconsin economics professor John R. Commons started to document the history of work and labor in America.
Workers and Unions in Wisconsin includes nearly one hundred selections covering the period from 1850 to 1990, illustrated by scores of historic photos, most of which have never before been reprinted. Editor Darryl Holter has included accounts of episodes that took place in more than twenty-five cities and towns in Wisconsin, including labor activities at such nationally known companies as Oscar Mayer, Kohler, Case, Allis-Chalmers, and Ray-O-Vac and workers as diverse as dairy farmers and university teaching assistants, lumberjacks and hosiery makers, municipal employees and paper mill workers. The result is a book that will fascinate and inform anyone interested in American labor history and economics, as well as in the personal stories that are part of any great societal change.