Wisconsin Department of Workforce Development
Timeline History: Wisconsin Department of Industry, Labor and Human Relations (DILHR)

The Kellett Commission studying organization of state government recommended consolidating labor-related functions and creating the Department of Industry, Labor & Human Relations (DILHR) from the old Industrial Commission.

The Governor's Commission on Human Rights was merged into the new department's Equal Opportunities Division. The State Equal Rights Council also was created, and migrant labor camp regulations was transferred from the State Board of Health to DILHR's Safety and Buildings Division.

The Equal Rights Council was given the responsibility to hear racial discrimination complaints in light of federal civil rights legislation.

In 1967, the new Department moved to its new location at the Hill Farms State Office Building. There were 1353 employees and a budget of $7.4 million.


DILHR's Equal Rights Division has the responsibility to hear racial discrimination complaints

Wisconsin became the first state to have a successful Work Incentive (WIN) program in every county. DILHR administered the WIN program, becoming one of nine states that implemented this program. WIN was a precursor to Wisconsin Works or W-2. WIN had AFDC training and employment participation requirements, sanctions for those who didn't participate, day care subsidies and other support services for those who participated. Some of the same principles of W-2 were implemented in the earlier WIN program and potentially set the stage for Wisconsin's welfare reform.


Additional Commissioners:
Charles B. Arnold (1968-69)
Joseph R. Kautzer (1969-72)

DILHR Job Mobile Unit
DILHR Job Mobile Unit

Wisconsin was one of two states (the other, Massachusetts) to enact uniform relocation laws to protect persons displaced by public projects, regardless of funding source.


Additional Commissioners:
Stanley York (1970-71)

State's oil inspection responsibilities were transferred from the Revenue Department to DILHR's Safety and Buildings division.

The Governor issued an executive order requiring the employment of apprentices on state or state-assisted construction contracts.

The requirement for curb ramping were added to municipal law for state statutes. This was a major change that enabled people with mobility limitation to achieve much more independence.


Patrick Joseph Lucey

Additional Commissioners:
Phillip W. Lerman (1971-75)
John C. Zinos (1971-77)

DILHR created the Division of Employment Security that merged the State Employment Service and Unemployment Compensation Division.

Apprenticeship Division begins requiring affirmative action and hiring goals for minorities for all apprentice employers.


Additional Commissioner:
William A. Johnson (1972-77)

In November, DILHR moved to its present headquarters at 201 East Washington Avenue.

GEF-1 State Office Building
GEF-1 State Office Building

Mobile Home Advisory Committee created.

The U.S. Vocational Rehabilitation Act of 1973.

Provides legal support for non-discrimination.
Creates the Architectural and Transportation Barriers Compliance Board.
Creates Client Assistance Programs.

U.S. Comprehensive Employment & Training Act (CETA).


DILHR's Employment Security Division became the first in the nation to adopt the name Job Service.


Congress extends Food Stamp Program to all states.

Wisconsin's wage and hours laws were expanded to cover adult males.

Wisconsin became the first state in the country to create an Office of Refugee Services to coordinate state services for refugees.

DILHR created a Native American Initiative to provide better employment services to Indian Reservations and urban Indians living in Milwaukee. (1975-1977)

U.S. created the federal Office of Child Support Enforcement to oversee program established by Title IV-D of the Social Security Act.


Wisconsin concluded more than 60 years of job safety inspections in private industry when legislation was passed eliminating matching funds for enforcement of federal standards under the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Act (OSHA). Wisconsin continued to enforce occupational safety and health codes for public employees.

Farm Workers in Field
Farm Workers in Field

Additional Commissioner:
Virginia A. Hart (1975-77)

Apprenticeship Division amended rules to require affirmative action efforts to include women.


Women Fire Fighters
Women Fire Fighters

The Wisconsin legislature changed the administrative structure of DILHR by creating a single executive officer, known as a Secretary replacing the 3 member Industrial Commission which was re-created as the Labor and Industry Review Commission

Manpower Services Division formed in DILHR to administer programs under CETA, the U.S. Comprehensive Employment & Training Act.

Congress reenacted the Food Stamp Act with substantial benefit increases.


Martin James Schreiber

First Cabinet Level Secretary:
Zell S. Rice (July 1977-Jan. 1979)

Zell S. Rice
Zell S. Rice

Title VII was added to the Rehabilitation Act. This resulted in the first independent living centers in Wisconsin in 1980.


DILHR's crime victims compensation program was transferred to the State Justice Dept.


Lee Sherman Dreyfus

Joseph N. Noll
(Jan. 1979-Aug. 1981)

Joseph N. Noll
Joseph N. Noll

The Refugee Act of 1980 created the first national refugee admissions policy and assistance program.


Legislation passed to require alternative standards for the preservation or restoration of buildings or structures designated as historic buildings.

A new statute required installation of fire detection, prevention or suppression devices in all public buildings and places of employment.


Lowell B. Jackson
(Aug. 1981-May 1982)

Lowell B. Jackson
Lowell B. Jackson

The U.S. Job Training Partnership Act of 1982 (JTPA) replaced CETA.

Wisconsin became the first state to pass legislation including "sexual orientation" as a protected category under state laws prohibiting discrimination in employment, housing and public accommodations.

Another new law granted employees access to information on toxic substances and pesticides to which they were exposed in the workplace.

A public employees "OSHA" law was passed by the legislature to provide state and local government workers with protection and rights equal to those granted private-sector employees under the federal OSHA law of 1971.


James J. Gosling
(June 1982-Jan. 1983)

James J. Gosling
James J. Gosling

DILHR observed its centennial on April 3rd.

Wisconsin was a national leader for 100 years in labor market information, apprenticeship, unemployment compensation, workers, compensation, wage and hour legislation, health and safety, equal rights, and job training.

At its centennial point, DILHR had 2500 employees and a budget of $129 million dollars.


Anthony Scully Earl

Howard Bellman
(Jan. 1983-Jan. 1987)

Howard Bellman
Howard Bellman

The Governor assigned DILHR the responsibility to develop the first State Employment and Training Policy to cover employment and training programs in all Wisconsin agencies.

DILHR assumed administrative responsibility for JTPA, the Job Training Partnership Act.

The first Job Center opened in Southwest Wisconsin. Job Centers were created to consolidate state and county job service programs.


The Division of Employment Security that merged the State Employment Service and Unemployment Compensation Division in 1972 was reorganized and separated under the direction of Secretary Bellman.

75th Anniversaries of Wisconsin's Worker's Compensation and Apprenticeship programs.

The Wisconsin Work Experience & Job Training program required AFDC recipients to get job-search and skill training and employment.


Tommy George Thompson

The Wisconsin Labor-Management Council was established to promote the positive labor-management climate in Wisconsin.

The Healthy Start Medicaid was implemented which covered all children under 6 years and pregnant women up to 100% of federal poverty level, with 100% state money. Healthy Start is just one of the child care assistance benefits that supplements job assistance programs.


John T. Coughlin
(Jan. 1987-June 1989)

John T. Coughlin
John T. Coughlin

Medicaid Catastrophic Coverage implemented with protections against spousal impoverishment for spouses of institutionalized recipients.

Healthy Start expanded to 120% of federal poverty level for pregnant women and children under 6 years.

The Wisconsin Family and Medical Leave Act became effective on April 15, 1988.


Wisconsin Job Service launched the Job Service Resume System. The State became the first in the nation to link multiple states in a Professional Resume Service.

As a result five other midwest states contracted with the Wisconsin Job Service to develop and launch this service. As technology improved more states participated and exists today through the internet as America's Job Bank.

On July 18, 1984, President Reagan signed the Deficit Reduction Act of 1984 into law. The law specifically charged all employers to start reporting quarterly wages for all employees. This law mandated that the reporting requirement would become effective on September 30, 1988.

The State of Wisconsin and DILHR's Unemployment Compensation Division had 4 years to create a system to report these wages and train 120,000 employers in the State how to report wages using the technology available at the time. Wisconsin aggressively pursued this goal by having a pilot program in 1987, reported the wages in 1988 and then paid claims statewide in 1989. The benefit of this system was to speed up claims processing because wage information no longer had to be requested of employers.

In addition, the program allowed other State and Federal programs to participate in the wage information sharing. Child support, AFDC, Medicaid and the food stamp program also shared in the information that was now available. Also, the use of the wage information helped prevent ineligibility and incorrect payments to recipients.


Gerald Whitburn
(July 1989-Jan. 1991)

Gerald Whitburn
Gerald Whitburn

Wisconsin began Children First, a program which promotes the emotional and financial responsibility that a noncustodial parent has towards his/her child(ren). This program requires parents owing child support to participate in unpaid employment or go to jail.


Healthy Start expanded to 155% of the federal poverty level for pregnant women and children under 6 years. Children under 19 years, born on or after 9/30/83 are eligible if family income does not exceed 100% of federal poverty level.

Carol Skornicka became the first woman cabinet secretary for DILHR and DWD.


Carol Skornicka
(Jan. 1991-Jan. 1997)

Carol Skornicka
Carol Skornicka

U.S. Vocational Rehabilitation Act of 1992.

Priority for service given to individuals with the most severe disabilities.

Definitions of disability changed to conform to definitions in ADA, IDEA and Tech Act.

Mandated State Rehabilitation Advisory Council.

Established the statewide Independent Living Council.


Jobs and Business Development program funded to help low-income entrepreneurs develop businesses in Wisconsin.

DILHR celebrated 110 years of existence and 25 years as an agency. In 1993, there were 2,199 employees and a budget of $233.3 million.

The U.S. Family Medical Leave Act became law effective February 5, 1993.


First JobNet operational at Dane County Job Center. JobNet is a touch-screen list of job openings.

Governor Thompson creates the Governor's Task Force on the Glass Ceiling Initiative, to recommend measures to ensure that the state's economy takes full advantage of the talents of Wisconsin women and minorities.

Wisconsin received a federal One-Stop Job Center Grant to establish job centers throughout the state. Wisconsin's newest Job Center opened in Wisconsin Rapids on October 26th. Nine agencies offer job seekers and employers in that area many services under one roof.

The JobNet automated job matching system was expanded throughout the state.

In April 1994, DILHR became one of the first Wisconsin agencies to establish an internet web presence to provide information and assistance to the public.

Governor Thompson appointed the Glass Ceiling Commission, the first such state commission in the nation to encourage businesses and organizations to voluntarily eliminate barriers and promote the advancement of women and minorities to upper ranks of management.


Work First tries to divert AFDC applicants from welfare to other resources.

Wisconsin implemented Medicaid reciprocity for migrant farm workers from another state.

Wisconsin uses annualized income and 12 month reviews for migrant families making it easier to apply for Medicaid.

Wisconsin Medicaid coverage was extended to children born to a Medicaid recipient for first year, regardless of changes in family income.

Healthy Start was expanded to incomes of 185% of federal poverty level for pregnant women and children under 6 years.

On June 23, 1995, the first of 54 local Unemployment Offices closed in Baraboo, marking a major change in how Unemployment claims were filed in Wisconsin.

DILHR began implementing an all-telephonic claims system with completion scheduled for Spring 1996. This eventually allowed DILHR and DWD to close 54 local offices and eliminate 118 positions in those offices. DWD then worked with the employees and their union to find transfer opportunities for those affected by this major business change.

Wisconsin was the first state in the nation to implement telephone Initial Claims.


Work Not Welfare began in two counties which limited AFDC benefits to 24 months and required recipients to work.

The new welfare plan called W-2 (Wisconsin Works) was unveiled to the news media and people of Wisconsin during a news conference.

The Glass Ceiling Commission issued the first Diamond Awards recognizing Wisconsin organizations which have programs to enhance upper level career opportunities for women and minorities.

Back to Top

Back to Main DWD History Page

All images property Department of Workforce Development

Email DWD DWD Instragram DWD on Twitter DWD on Facebook DWD on YouTube DWD on LinkedIn DWD RSS Feed

A proud partner of the network