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Collective bargaining in Wisconsin has labor history

03.25.11

MARCH 2011 Scranton/Wilkes-Barre/Hazleton edition of The Union News

Collective bargaining in Wisconsin has labor history

BY PAUL LEESON
THEUNIONNEWSSWB@AOL.COM

REGION, February 28th- While the collective bargaining rights of public employees are being debated in the state of Wisconsin, the state has a long history of involvement with workers’ rights.Wisconsin’s Republican Governor Scott Walker’s state budget repair bill calls for increased pension and health care contributions from public employees and calls for restrictions on collective bargaining for certain public employees.

Collective bargaining is the negotiation process between an employer (or group of employers) and a union on behalf of employees regarding wages, benefits and other conditions of employment, such as work hours and dispute resolution.

While the National Labor Relations Act (NLRAct) of 1935 extended the right to collectively bargain to private sector employees, it did not include such rights for public employees. However, states may extend such rights to public employees within the affected states. Many states, including Pennsylvania, but not all, have granted collective bargaining rights to some or all public employees.

Wisconsin has a long history of involvement with workers rights in the public sector. In 1959, the Wisconsin legislature passed the Public Employee Collective Bargaining Act, the first state law allowing collective bargaining rights for public employees. It extended rights to local government employees and teachers. Wisconsin state employees were awarded similar rights in the 1970’s.

The American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME) Union grew out of the Wisconsin State Employees Union Council 24 which had its beginnings in 1932 in Madison when a small group of white-collar professional state employees met to discuss strengthening the civil services system.

Also, the first state workers’ compenstation law was passed in Wisconsin in 1911, as was the nation’s modern apprenticeship law. In 1932, Wisconsin enacted the first unemployment compensation law and established the nation’s first unemployment compensation program in 1936.

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