MADISON -- Wisconsin has a long and proud tradition of honoring workers and creating programs that protect and defend the lives and economic stability of the labor force. I am pleased to be a part of Governor Doyle’s cabinet and proud to serve as Secretary of the Department of Workforce Development, the state’s "labor" department. As we celebrate Labor Day this year, I am thankful for the dedicated men and women who in the past have made sacrifices so that today’s workers can have the protections we all now enjoy.
Wisconsin has always been on the forefront of labor initiatives and protections. In 1911, Wisconsin not only became the first state to pass a state constitutional Workmen’s Compensation act, guaranteeing injury compensation as a legal right but also enacted the nation's first modern apprenticeship law incorporating area vocational schools.
But we didn’t stop there.
In 1932, Wisconsin passed the nation’s first unemployment compensation law, creating the model for the nation on how to protect workers and families during economically distressed periods.
In 1945, Wisconsin became one of the first three states to prohibit discrimination on the basis of race, creed, color, national origin or ancestry in employment. In 1982, we added sexual orientation to the list of protections.
Wisconsin indeed has a proud history, which we will carry forward. Wisconsin workers today, more than ever, need our services and our protections. I am happy to be a part of the department that strives to ensure that these services are available.
However, Wisconsin is at a crossroads in our economic history. For over a decade, we have relied on a robust national economy and the strength of our traditional industries, such as manufacturing and agriculture. Today, the struggling national economy brings Wisconsin’s economic challenges into clear view.
We are faced with a pivotal decision. We can continue on what has been our path where the wages and income of Wisconsin families are dropping and are lower than both the national average and those of our neighboring states, while continuing to watch the exodus of many of our most educated young people from the state, or we can choose a new path, capturing new industries, strengthening our existing industries and businesses, keeping our best and brightest here at home and attracting young people here from other states. By embracing our future and concentrating on growing our economy and strengthening our workforce with high wage jobs, we can prevail and Governor Doyle has made this effort his top priority.
Governor Doyle has instructed his cabinet to focus on accomplishing the following goals to grow Wisconsin’s economy:
Our foundation is a strong one. As we celebrate this year’s Labor Day, let us remember our proud past and roll up our sleeves to work at putting Wisconsin in the lead once more. On Wisconsin.