DWD History Timeline
Events from 1883 - 2019
- The Wisconsin Bureau of Labor Statistics was established in 1883 and headquartered at the Capitol. Wisconsin became the 9th state to create a state agency to collect non-agricultural statistics. (The US Bureau of Labor Statistics was established in 1884.) The bureau was given authority to enforce laws regulating the employment of children and women, passed as early as 1867. The total budget for the Bureau was $2,000.
- In 1884, the Bureau published its first labor statistics report. Safety related questions asked on the 1884 survey: "What height are your buildings; are they wood, brick or stone? Have you fire escapes? What kind? Have you apparatus for extinguishing fires?
- Governor: Jeremiah McLain Rusk (1882-1889)
- The Wisconsin State Militia was called to guard the Allis Reliance Iron Works in May 1886. The 1800's normally favored business interests over workers' collective actions.
- Labor Commissioner Flower stated in the 1883-84 Biennial Report "Strikes have been likened to war, but they also may be likened to boils which show the condition of the system. That it is deranged and the blood impure and a constitutional remedy is needed to drive the humors out".
- Wisconsin's first safety law was an 1887 machine statute, which required fences or guards around gears, shafts, bull-wheels and pulleys.
- New Factory inspectors began to enforce employment laws.
- Legislation raised the minimum age of employment from age 12 to 13 for Wisconsin residents.
- Commercial establishments were regulated by new state law.
Governor: William Henry Upham
- Legislation passed to prohibit race discrimination in restaurants, inns and other public accommodations in Wisconsin.
- Minimum age for employment was raised from age 13 to 14 for Wisconsin residents.
- Beginning in 1867, labor groups secured laws to protect young workers. Such legislation fixed age limits, set educational requirements, restricted work hours and prohibited young children from working in industrial plants. The first work permit program was instituted in 1899.
- The first public employment office in the state was established by the city of Superior.
- Location of the first state-operated public employment offices: Milwaukee and Superior.
- Governor: Robert Marion La Follette (1901-1906)
- Davidson was born in Årdal, Sogn og Fjordane County, Norway and immigrated in 1872 to the United States when he was 18 years old. In Boscobel, Wisconsin he worked as a farmhand and as a tailor. Davidson began a successful mercantile business and established his own tailor business in Soldiers Grove, Wisconsin.
- He held several political positions in Wisconsin, and was twice elected village president in Soldiers Grove. Davidson was also elected as a Republican candidate to the Wisconsin State Assembly, serving three terms from 1893 to 1899. He was elected Wisconsin state treasurer in 1898 and 1900
- Two more state-operated employment offices opened in Oshkosh and LaCrosse.
- In the 1900's the Wisconsin legislature enacted laws to protect children in the workplace. In 1917, a centralized work permit system was created under the Industrial Commission.
- First State Civil Service Law enacted; creates a three- member Civil Service Commission. Wisconsin becomes third state to establish a civil service system.
- More information about Robert La Follette: The Founder and Leader of Wisconsin Progressivism
- Legislature set the maximum hours of labor for children to 55 a week and adopted a list of dangerous occupations prohibited to children under 16
- The Street Trades Law was passed to regulate child labor, specifically, children selling newspapers in Milwaukee.
- The first attempt at workers compensation legislation came in 1909. Senator Theodore W. Brazeau introduced a proposal to provide compensation insurance. The senate postponed the proposal indefinitely. The legislature did, however provide for a joint interim committee of 3 Senators and 4 Assemblymen to study such insurance.
- The Wisconsin Bureau of Labor Statistics is replaced by a 3-member Industrial Commission. The Commission spent $59,718 in its first year.
- One of the more notable Commissioners was John R. Commons. Dr. Commons was a Economics Professor at the University of Wisconsin. Commons influenced a generation of people who became involved in social reform and progressive legislation.
- A reformer rather than a revolutionary, Commons championed laws that protected workers while preserving the efficiency of large-scale industry. Effective labor legislation, he maintained, could make the capitalist economic system work in favor of workers as well as employers. Commons' thinking influenced Wisconsin's most important new labor laws, especially industrial safety and unemployment insurance. On occasion, Commons' University classes became staging grounds for new legislation. Many of his students, including Arthur Altmeyer, became state or federal labor law administrators.
- Arthur J. Altmeyer later became one of the most important figures in the history of Social Security. President Franklin Roosevelt called him "Mr. Social Security." The Social Security Act was signed into law by President Roosevelt in 1935.
- The Wisconsin legislature enacted more laws to regulate hours, wages and employment conditions of women and children.
- Work week for children reduced to 48 hours.
- Work week for women set at 55 hours.
- Other industrial safety laws were passed.
- Wisconsin established free employment services in its Milwaukee, Superior, LaCrosse and Oshkosh Employment Offices. These employment services were primarily local labor exchanges.
- Nation's first modern apprenticeship law that included area vocational schools as a necessary component of apprenticeship programs. 625 apprentices were indentured in the first year in Wisconsin.
- Nation's first state constitutional Workmen's Compensation Act (now Worker's Compensation) guaranteeing injury compensation as a legal right was enacted on May 3, 1911 and became effective September 1st to be administered by the Industrial Commission. TheConstitutionality of the Act was upheld by the Wisconsin Supreme Court on November 1, 1911 (and by the U.S. Supreme Court in 1926).
- Video Clip about John Commons
- Read more about John Commons
- Governor: Francis Edward McGovern (1911-1915)
- First head of the Wisconsin Industrial Commission: Joseph D. Beck (1911-1917)
- Additional Commissioners: Charles Crownhart (1911-1915)
John R. Commons (1911-1913)
- Wisconsin's first elevator safety code took effect in 1913.
- The first Wisconsin wage law was enacted in 1913 and specified that a "living wage" must be paid to women and minors. In enacting this law, the Legislature specified that "every wage paid or agreed to be paid by any employer to any female or minor employee shall be not less than a living wage." Administrative authority was given to the Industrial Commission, which was to use an advisory board equally representing employers, employees and the public in its determination of a "living wage," thereby also necessitating consideration of the cost of living. There were several events which delayed the determination of a living wage and contributed to a 6-year lapse between the 1913 enactment of the law and issuance of the first wage orders in 1919.
- The Industrial Commission completed an extensive study in 1913- 1914 of the working conditions and cost of living of employed women in Wisconsin; and most pertinent - the constitutionality of the Oregon Minimum Wage Law (which was similar in principle to the Wisconsin law) was being challenged in the courts from 1914 to 1917, when a tie vote of the U.S. Supreme Court sustained the Oregon Law and thus helped clear the way for action in Wisconsin.
- Additional Commissioner: Fred M. Wilcox (1913-1933)
- In 1914, the first building code in Wisconsin was adopted to help in the enforcement of the safe place statutes for all buildings and places of employment, including factories, stores, schools, theaters, churches, and hotels. Inspection responsibilities also were given to the commission. The Commission adopted the first boiler code after boiler explosions increased.
- . . . World War I began . . .
Commissioners (From left to right):
Edwin E. Witte, Secretary (1917-22)
Joseph D. Beck
Fred M. Wilcox
George P. Hambrecht.
- A new Wisconsin apprenticeship law required apprentices to attend school 5 hours a week, at the employer's expense.
- Current Employment Statistics (CES) began, managed by the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics and Industrial Commission (the program continues today!).
- Governor: Emanuel Lorenz Philipp
- Additional Commissioner:
George P. Hambrecht (1915-1921)
- The Wisconsin Industrial Commission created a Women's Department and assigned it the responsibility for the administration of laws concerning women and child labor, including the Minimum Wage law.
- The U.S. Smith Hughes Act (Public Law 347) establishes federal-state vocational education program and creates Federal Board of Vocational Education.
- The Wisconsin Free Employment Service had 31 public employment offices.
- State Legislators centralized child labor permit-granting authority under the Wisconsin Industrial Commission.
- Additional Commissioner: Thomas Konop (1917-1921)
- Occupational diseases were added to Worker's Compensation coverage.
- A 22-cent minimum wage was established for women and minors 17 years of age and older.
- A petition presented May 1, 1919, to the Industrial Commission by the Wisconsin Federation of Labor, the Consumers League of Wisconsin, and the Central Council of Social Agencies of Milwaukee initiated a wage action by the Commission. As required by law, the action involved appointment of an Advisory Wage Board and consideration of their recommendations and findings, as well as those of the Commission in its 1913-1914 cost of living study. After the required public hearings were held, the commission issued Wage Orders on June 27, 1919, and named their effective date as August 1,1919
1920 thru 1921
- A complete safety code was developed for all mines and quarries by the Industrial Commission.
- Wisconsin created the Vocational Rehabilitation program with emphasis on people injured in industrial employment accidents.
- Governors: John James Blaine (1921-1927)
Fred R. Zimmerman (1927-1929)
Walter Jodok Kohler, Sr. (1929-1931)
- Additional Commissioners: R. G. Knutson (1921-1933)
L.A. Tarrell (1921-1927)
Voyta Wrabetz (1927-1955)
- Industrial Commissioner Secretary: Arthur Altmeyer (1922-33)
- The Wisconsin Worker's Compensation law was held constitutional by the U.S. Supreme Court. The law had been held constitutional by the Wisconsin Supreme Court in 1911.
- Wisconsin Legislature created a new division to help workers collect wages owed by former employers.
- New legislation required employers to pay all laborers, workman and mechanics on state public works projects at the "prevailing" wage rate of the area.
- Development of Safety Codes were continuing as technologies evolved.
- Governor: Philip Fox La Follette (1931-1933)
- The Wisconsin Legislature passed the nation's first unemployment compensation law, three years in advance of the U.S. Social Security Act which established a nationwide program.
- On January 28, 1932, Governor Philip La Follette signs the nation's first unemployment compensation law. Also pictured in back, left to right, are: Henry Oltl, President, Wisconsin Federation of Labor; Elizabeth Brandeis; Paul Raushenbush; John R. Commons; Henry Huber Lt. Governor; Assemblyman Harold Groves; and Assemblyman Robert Nixon.
- Governors: Albert George Schmedeman (1933-1935)
Philip Fox La Follette (1935-1939)
- Arthur Altmeyer was one of the seminal figures of the Social Security program in America. He was part of the President's Committee on Economic Security that drafted the original legislative proposal in 1934. He was a member of the three-person Social Security Board created to run the new program, and he was either Chairman of the Board or Commissioner for Social Security from 1937-1953. Although he believed that public administration was a vitally important activity, he was also one of the principal conceptual and philosophical spokesmen for social insurance in America, and much of the policymaking during Social Security's founding decades was formulated by Altmeyer. Along with a mere handful of others, Arthur J. Altmeyer is responsible for the Social Security program as it exists in America today.
- Altmeyer was born in the little town of DePere Wisconsin, near Green Bay. His father was of German ancestry, the Altmeyers having come to American in 1848 with the wave of German immigration seeking to escape the reactionary political climate in the Germany of that period. So he inherited, you might say, a liberal progressivism in his genes. His mother was Dutch.
- The young Altmeyer saved what money he could to finance his education. He stayed in high school until he was 19 then worked for a year or so to save money for college. At age 21 he finally entered the University of Wisconsin where he graduated in three years, Phi Beta Kappa. He would eventually return to Wisconsin where he would earn a Masters and a Ph.D., while his wife, a school teacher, worked and supported him during his graduate studies.
- Read the biography for Arthur Altmeyer
The nation's first WC law is commemorated with a state historical marker on Highway 51 north of Stevens Point.
- Wisconsin was the first state to establish an Unemployment Compensation program. Wisconsin issued the first Unemployment Compensation Check in the United States on August 17, 1936. It was in the amount of $15.00 and issued to Neils N, Ruud. Ruud sold it to Paul Raushenbush for $25.00 for it's historical value. The check is now at the State Historical Society. Mr. Raushenbush was a University of Wisconsin Economics Professor who later became Director of the Unemployment Compensation Division from 1932 to 1967.
- The U.S. Randolph Sheppard Act created the blind vending program which was enacted to provide blind persons with remunerative employment, enlarge their economic opportunities, and encourage their self-support through the operation of vending facilities in Federal buildings. In addition to federal buildings, the program was extended to State buildings. The program continues today as the Blind Business Enterprise Program (BEP).
- Wisconsin extended vocational rehabilitation services to disabled homebound.
- The Interstate Conference of Unemployment Compensation Administrators was formed, with Wisconsin a member; mandate broadened to include Employment Service activities 2 years later and its name was changed to the Interstate Conference of Employment Security Agencies (ICESA).
- In 1937 the Wisconsin legislature created the Wisconsin Labor Relations Board modeled after the national board. In 1967, the board was reorganized as a commission.
- New Commissioners:
- Mable Griswold (1938-39)
- Harry J. Burczyk (1939-53)
- C.L. Miller (1939-52)
- Governor: Julius Peter Heil (1939-1943)
- In 1941, the federal Fair Employment Practices Commission was established to hear complaints of racial discrimination in war related industries.
- On January 1, 1942 the Wisconsin Employment Service was federalized as part of the war effort. This moved oversight and administration to a federal level.
- In 1943, the Wisconsin Industrial Commission was moved from the Capital Building to 1 West Wilson St., the new state office building in Madison. In 1943, the commission had 370 employees. The minimum wage was 16 to 22 cents.
- During World War II, women became a vital labor resource for war materials production.
- Wisconsin became one of first three states to prohibit discrimination on the basis of race, creed, color, national origin or ancestry in employment. This law became known as the Fair Employment Law.
- Protections were subsequently added for: age 40 and over (1959); gender (1961); handicap/disability (1965); arrest or conviction record (1977); marital status (1982); sexual orientation (1982); membership in the national guard, state defense force or any other reserve component of the military forces (1987); and use or nonuse of lawful products, such as tobacco, off the employer's premises during nonworking hours, i.e., smoker's rights legislation (1991). The prohibition against discrimination based on sexual orientation was the first so-called "gay rights" law in the nation.)
- The Apprenticeship Division became the state approval agency for veterans enrolled in apprenticeship or on-the-job training under the GI Bill.
- Governors: Oscar Rennebohm (1947-1951)
Walter Jodok Kohler, Jr. (1951-1957)
- Governors: Oscar Rennebohm (1947-1951)
- Wisconsin administers the Social Security Disability program through the vocational rehabilitation agency.
- Governor: Vernon Wallace Thomson (1957-1959)
- Additional Commissioners: R.G. Knutson (1952-63)
Arthur Enright (1953-59)
John H. Rouse (1955-61)
- Legislation makes it illegal in Wisconsin to discriminate on the basis of age in employment.
- Legislation to prohibit discrimination for organizations having contracts with the state.
- In 1959, the legislature granted bargaining rights to local government workers.
- Governor: Gaylord Anton Nelson (1959-1963)
- Additional Commissioner: Mathlas F. Schlmenz (1959-65)
- Federal Aid to Dependent Children changes to Aid to Families with Dependent Children (AFDC).
- As agricultural surpluses reappeared in the 1950s, Congress considered legislation to reinstate a food stamp program. A pilot food stamp program was started under President Kennedy in 1961 and made permanent with the passage of the Food Stamp Act of 1964 under President Johnson. The stated purpose was "to raise levels of nutrition among low-income households," and "to promote the distribution in a beneficial manner of our agricultural abundance."
- In 1961, the anniversaries of 2 significant Wisconsin firsts were marked: the 25th anniversary of the payment by the state of Wisconsin of the first unemployment compensation check and the 50th anniversary of the enactment of the first modern state Workmen's Compensation act. On August 31, 1961 in ceremonies hosted by President John F. Kennedy on the south lawn of the White House, the Wisconsin Worker's Compensation law was commemorated with a 4-cent stamp to celebrate the 50th anniversary of its enactment as the first worker's compensation law in the nation.
- Additional Commissioner: Carl E. Lauri (1961-66)
- Text of President Kennedy's speech.
- U.S. Manpower Development and Training Act. MDTA in Wisconsin was administered by the Wisconsin State Employment Service. The Act began providing federal financial support for job training programs for the first time.
- Wisconsin passed legislation to require buildings to be accessible to persons with disabilities.
- Governor: John W. Reynolds (1963-1965)
- Additional Commissioner: George W. Otto (1963-65)
- Wisconsin is the first state to outlaw job discrimination on the basis of disability.
- Open housing law was passed, and guaranteed all persons equal opportunity for housing, regardless of race, religion, color, national origin, or ancestry.
- Governor: Warren Perley Knowles (1965-1971)
- Additional Commissioners: Gene A. Rowland (1965-67)
Joseph C. Fagen (1965-70)
Edward E. Estkowski (1966-71)
- 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.
- 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)
- 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.
- 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.
- Governor: Patrick Joseph Lucey (1971-1977)
- 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.
- 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.
- Additional Commissioner: Virginia A. Hart (1975-77)
- Apprenticeship Division amended rules to require affirmative action efforts to include women.
- 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.
- Governor: Martin James Schreiber (1977-1979)
- 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.
- Governor: Lee Sherman Dreyfus (1979-1983)
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- Governor: Anthony Scully Earl (1983-1987)
- 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.
- Governor: Tommy George Thompson (1986-2001)
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- Wisconsin Department of Workforce Development (DWD) replaced DILHR in a major departmental reorganization.
- The Division of Safety and Buildings moved to the new Department of Commerce.
- The divisions of Economic Support and Vocational Rehabilitation became part of DWD (moving from the Department of Health and Social Services).
- Pay for Performance required up-front job search and emphasized AFDC as a short-term source of income.
- Wisconsin's welfare reform program Wisconsin Works (W-2) was signed into law.
- Unemployment Insurance wentstatewide with the Telephone Initial Claims system (TICS). This completed the major initiative to close all local unemployment offices and eliminate long lines at those offices.
- JobNet workstations especially designed for the disabled were made available.
- U.S. Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunities Reconciliation Act (PRWORA) of 1996:
- Created Temporary Assistance forNeedy Families Block Grant programto replace AFDC.
- Mandated the National Directory of New Hires as a national resource to assist States in locating childsupport obligors working in otherstates and improve child support collection efforts.
- DWD was awarded the prestigious 1996 Computerworld Smithsonian Award for excellence in technological innovations. The innovations were the creation of the Unemployment Insurance Telephonic Initial Claims System (TICS) and the JobNet automated placement system.
- Wisconsin's child care budget tripled, and child care subsidy waiting lists were eliminated.
- DWD opened the Business Resource Network on the Internet as a site to guide Wisconsin businesses to useful information in the Internet. The site received a U.S. Dept. of Labor Customer Service Award.
- Wisconsin was the first state to use an Interactive Voice Response telephone system to capture a full unemployment insurance initial claim.
- US Workforce Investment Act of 1998 (replaced JTPA).
- Included Rehabilitation Amendments of 1998.
- Emphasized informed choice by individuals with disabilities.
- Supported cooperation, collaboration and coordination with other programs.
- Wisconsin established the Forward Award to recognize Wisconsin organizations for significant achievements in continuous improvement and performance management. The program was created in DWD and later transferred to a private non-profit organization
- Wisconsin ended AFDC after seven months transition to W-2.Governor Tommy Thompson was present for the issuance of the last paper AFDC welfare check in Wisconsin.
- Wisconsin Act 191 provides administrative enforcement of child support orders (e.g. liens, license suspension or denial, account seizure).
- Administrative Rule DWD 43 adopted to define administrative enforcement tools for child support orders as provided in Wisconsin Act 191.
- New Centralized Receipt and Disbursement system allowed custodial parents to receive their child support checks from non-custodial parents through a central collections and disbursement unit.
- Centralized Receipt and Disbursement was implemented for child support payment through the Wisconsin Support Collections Trust Fund (January 1999).
- Centralized Receipt and Disbursement was implemented for child support payment through the Wisconsin Support Collections Trust Fund (January 1999).
- The Wisconsin Works (W-2) program received an Innovations In American Government Award from the Ford Foundation
- Food Stamp program in Wisconsin began Electronic Benefits Transfer (EBT) with the Wisconsin Quest Card.
- Child Support Lien Docket implemented (Wisconsin Act 191 and DWD 43) (October 2000). Lien Docket allowed DWD to attach the assets of child support providers who are in arrears with their support payments.
- A new campaign was designed to emphasize the importance and need for qualified child care professionals.
- A new job order system that made it easier for employers and job seekers to meet their respective employment need by significantly reducing the time and effort required to post job openings.
- Parents who owe back child support might not find a federal tax rebate check in their mailbox. Instead, the rebates are used to pay past due support through a new state-federal tax intercept program.
- October: Secretary Roberta Gassman spoke to local employers and inmates at the third annual Kettle Moraine Correctional Institution Job Fair in Plymouth.
- The job fair provided DWD and the Department of Corrections a chance to educate employers, inmates, and the public about barriers inmates have traditionally faced while trying to make a productive transition back into the workforce and the community. At the job fair, about 30 local employers learned many offenders use their time in prison to obtain vocational training in areas such as welding, woodworking, building services, custodial skills, auto detailing, and office software.
- At the job fair, Secretary Gassman announced Wisconsin received the Building A World-Class Workforce Award from the United States Department of Labor (DOL) and the National Association of State Workforce Agencies (NASWA).
- The annual national customer service award honors outstanding achievements by state workforce agencies. The award resulted from a partnership with DWD and the Department of Corrections to develop and deliver training for Wisconsin Job Center staff to better serve customers with an offender background.
- November: the Unemployment Insurance Division launched an Internet-based filing option for Wisconsin's unemployed workers. The system makes filing easier, reduces errors and minimizes delays in payment. The system is expected to save a minimum of $240,000 taxpayer dollars per year.
- December: DWD played host to labor leaders, management and government officials from the Jeollanamdo Provincial Government of Korea. The delegation also brought along two reporters from South Korea to document the visit. The South Korean delegation came to DWD to gain information on examples of partnerships between industry, labor, education and government.
Secretary Gassman addresses the group from China
- January: JobNet, the State of Wisconsin's labor exchange system operated by DWS, has now been in business for eight years. JobNet is the state's largest source of job openings and has registered almost half a million job seekers. JobNet is available in 128 locations (including 72 Wisconsin Job Centers, plus some Health and Family Services offices and high schools) and on the Internet.
- July: DWD was the lead in the resettlement efforts for Lao-Hmong refugees who have been living for many years in a compound in Thailand. Governor Doyle directed DWD to join forces with local and community agencies to provide job training and placement services. Bilingual staff at DWD, workforce development boards, and local and community agencies met with individuals who were ready to enter the world of work, assessed their skills, and worked with the business community to identify jobs for them. Wisconsin gave the refugees access to job training services through W-2 and other community resources. Wisconsin Job Centers are Workforce Investment Act (WIA) one-stop offices providing training and employment-related services for job seekers; and, worker recruitment and job posting services for employers.
- September: DWD played host to a delegation of young professionals from Shanghai, China. The group visited multiple state agencies to learn about Wisconsin's state government structure and public programs. Two members of the delegation were mentored by the Division of Vocational Rehabilitation for six weeks.
- On September 24, 2004 the Bureau of Child Support (BCS) received notice from the federal Office of Child Support Enforcement (OCSE) that the KIDS child support data system achieved full federal certification. This tremendous accomplishment encompassed hundreds of automation projects. Many of the projects were developed by workgroups of BCS and county staff working with IT staff defining business requirements, approving automation designs, and testing. BCS was in charge of implementation, including issuing policy directives, creating necessary documents and developing KIDS instructions.
- Also in September: the State Unemployment Insurance Tax Enterprise System (SUITES) Wage application was implemented on September 20th. SUITES is the replacement of the core UI Tax and Wage systems and processes. SUITES moves from non-relational mainframe information to relational databases.
- The DWD Biennial Budget Request was submitted on September 15, 2004 requesting a total of $2.25 billion in spending authority for the biennium.
- October: DWD received the State Council on Affirmative Action award for excellence in diversity achievements. The award recognizes achievement in all phases of equal employment opportunity/affirmative action programs, disability services, retention and upward mobility.
- October also marked the one-year anniversary of one of DWD's newest services, the Disability Navigator program, a program to cut the red tape for people with disabilities to get the work supports and services they need to become part of the state's workforce
- December: Secretary Gassman joined veterans and DWD workers in celebrating the 60th anniversary of the Local Veteran Employment Representative Program. The program was initiated in 1944, as part of the GI bill by then-President Franklin D. Roosevelt just days after the D-Day Invasion of Normandy. Each year in Wisconsin, 30,000 veterans are served by LVERs (Local Veteran Employment Representatives) and a related effort, the DVOPs (Disabled Veterans Outreach Program), which begun in 1980. The two programs help veterans connect to work and provide employment services such as, counseling, testing, training and searching for job opportunities. Seventy percent of veterans served by LVERs and DVOPs find jobs.
DWD Secretary Roberta Gassman presents a plaque to state veterans' coordinator Bruce Markert to commemorate the LVER anniversary.
Secretary Roberta Gassman introducing Governor Doyle at the June 2005 Council on Workforce Investment meeting
- On June 1, Wisconsin increased minimum wage for first time since 1997. Hourly minimum wage increased from $5.15 to $5.70, first of two-step increase won by Governor.
Secretary Gassman addresses a Wausau group on the minimum wage increase
- On June 1, Secretary Gassman travels to Beloit and Wausau, meets with low-wage workers benefiting from second increase in minimum wage. Wage raised from $5.70 an hour to $6.50, benefiting an estimated 200,000 low wage workers.
- On September 1, Wisconsin Council on Workforce Investment adopts new national manufacturing skill standards, making Wisconsin the first state to officially accept the standards recommended Manufacturing Skill Standards Council. Production workers who meet the standards will receive certificates that verify their skills and serve as career visas in an ever changing global economy.
- On September 7, Secretary Gassman awards first in a series of Governor Jim Doyle's Safe Lifting Initiative grants, to help train nurses and other health care workers in proper lifting techniques and avoid injuries in caring for patients.
- Black River Falls Memorial Hospital and Gundersen Lutheran Hospital and Riverfront, Inc., in La Crosse are the first to receive training grants. In all, 18 demonstration projects are being funded with $325,000 in federal WIA aid.
Secretary Gassman speaks to 8th grade members of Boys & Girls Clubs of the Fox Valley about the Wisconsin Covenant.
On February 8, Secretary Gassman outlined the Governor's Working Family Agenda, which was presented as part of the Governor's State Budget on February 13.
- BadgerCare Plus coverage for every child, allowing low-income families to simply enroll, while permitting those with higher incomes to buy coverage, starting at $10 a month;
- Expansion of BadgerCare Plus coverage to include low-income adults without children;
- Launch of the Wisconsin Covenant, a promise to Wisconsin eighth-graders that if they work hard, earn good grades, participate in their community, and be good citizens during high school, they will be guaranteed a spot in one of Wisconsin's universities or technical colleges;
- Creation of the Department of Children and Families dedicated to improving the lives of children and families. The new agency would draw programs, such as child support and Wisconsin Works, from DWD, and foster care and child care licensing, from the Department of Health and Family Services.
- On June 30, Governor Doyle Launches the new Department of Children and Families(DCF). The new Department will be Wisconsin's first cabinet agency focused exclusively on promoting the safety, economic and social well-being of kids and families of the state.
- The new department brings together under one roof 30 services currently divided between the Department of Health and Family Services (DHFS) and the Department of Workforce Development (DWD). View DCF press release.
- DWD program areas now include Unemployment Insurance, Workers Compensation, Vocational Rehabilitation, Equal Rights, and Employment and Training.
- New signage on GEF 1 building, now home to the Department of Workforce Development and Department of Children and Families
- DWD convened a new Council on Workforce Investment (CWI) and provided the Governor with a list of key workforce priorities; including statewide sector strategy subcommittees focusing on the health care, manufacturing and energy industries.
- Wisconsin was among the first states to implement the Federal Tax Offset Program (TOPS) to intercept federal tax refunds for fraudulent overpayment's and recouped over $3.1 million.
- DVR won the 2012 National Council on Rehabilitation Education (NCRE) President’s Award for Excellence in Rehabilitation. The President’s Award recognizes a truly superior state-federal vocational rehabilitation program and honors excellence among state agencies. DVR was nominated for the leadership and vision exercised in the Motivational Interviewing project. Motivational Interviewing allows counselors to evoke change from within the job seeker, change that is more substantial than requiring or imposing changes upon the job seeker.
- The Council on Workforce Investment created a task force to investigate and recommend strategies to address unemployment among minorities in the Milwaukee area. Members include leaders from the Governor’s cabinet, area legislators, business leaders, and community-based organizations in the Milwaukee area.
- DWD launched the $15 million Wisconsin Fast Forward worker training grant program and began developing a cutting-edge labor market information system.
- DWD launched Skill Explorer, a web-based tool that lets individuals search for openings based on skills instead of job titles, opening up opportunities that span different industries but share skills.
- DWD resumed enforcement of the legal requirement that Unemployment Insurance (UI) claimants who must search for work do so by registering on JobCenterofWisconsin.com, providing a resume and creating a job match profile. Employers who register on JobCenterofWisconsin.com will be able to access resumes of an expanded pool of candidates who have a variety of skills and are actively seeking new opportunities.
- Governor Walker proclaimed 2014 the Year of A Better Bottom Line to encourage employers to hire persons with disabilities. Also, the Division of Vocational Rehabilitation (DVR) in December eliminated a wait list for job seekers with significant disabilities for the first time in over a decade.
- The Governor's Council on Workforce Investment completed work on the 2014-2018 Workforce and Talent Development Strategic Plan, which recommended key strategies to develop talent and grow Wisconsin's economy.
- The UI Trust Fund reached a positive balance for the first time since 2009 following the previous enactment of historic UI reforms by the Legislature and Governor Walker. The Unemployment Insurance Division increased the number of weekly work search audits from 200 to 800 per week to promote increased program integrity and prevent improper payments.
- DWD implemented the most dramatic enhancements to the state's UI online system to file initial UI claims and handle claim inquires since 2008.
- The Office of Skills Development reported DWD issued its intent to award $44.13 million grants to train nearly 20,000 workers under the Wisconsin Fast Forward program and the Blueprint for Prosperity expansion.
- DWD's Division of Vocational Rehabilitation (DVR) assisted 4,875 individuals with disabilities achieve their employment goals during the fiscal year ending September 30, 2015, representing the highest number of successful year-end closures on current record.
- DWD rolled out its new and improved JobCenterofWisconsin.com (JCW) website in September, featuring simplified registration, improved usability, and advanced skills matching to connect talent with job openings.
- In March 2015, DWD introduced its online Reemployment Services (RES) which include service delivery to all UI claimants who are required to search for work by leveraging 21st century technology to increase access and compliance.
- The UI Trust Fund balance was $510 million on June 30, 2015, the statutory date for measuring the balance used to determine the required tax rate schedule for the following year. Since the balance exceeded the $300 million threshold needed to trigger a lower UI tax rate schedule for 2016, Wisconsin employers can expect an estimated $97 million reduction in UI taxes for 2016 collectively.
- On January 21, Governor Walker appointed Ray Allen to the position of Secretary of the Department of Workforce Development. Prior to the appointment, Ray Allen held the position of Secretary at the Department of Financial Institutions. He replaced Secretary Reggie Newson, who left state government for a position in the private sector.
- At the end of April 2016, Wisconsin's UI Trust Fund reached a positive balance of over $1 billion, the first time it held a balance of over $1 billion since 2003.
- On October 31, 2016 the UI Trust Fund Reserve Fund Balance was $1.2 billion, an increase of $400.3 million over the $807.8 million balance on October 31 of last year. Since reaching a low of negative $1.6 billion on March 31, 2011, the UI Trust Fund has been solvent since July 30, 2014. The UI Reserve Fund balance was $980 million on June 30, 2016, the statutory date for measuring the balance used to determine the required tax rate schedule for the following year. The UI Trust Fund balance exceeded the $900 million threshold needed to move to a lower UI tax rate schedule for 2017, the second consecutive year that a lower tax schedule has been triggered.
- DWD's UI Division has undergone a 21st century modernization, responding to our customer's desire for free, fast and easy online self-service access to the UI program. These enhancements provide UI claimants with more opportunities to file a fast and accurate claim online without any hold times when it is convenient for them. These online systems are mobile friendly, providing secure access from any smartphone, tablet or computer. In March 2016, DWD completed an improved Internet Weekly Claim application (IWC) after success with the dramatically improved online inquiries application (IIQ) and an Internet Initial Claim application (ICR).
- In the most recent Federal Fiscal Year, 4,615 individuals with disabilities successfully reached their employment goals and entered the workforce, with estimated earnings of $82 million annually.
- Through September 2016, over 3,000 new apprentices began training and over 9,000 apprentices were gainfully employed and receiving on-the-job training with nearly 2,100 employers. The program experienced an increase of 7 percent in participation over the prior twelve month period while the construction sector experienced a gain of 15 percent.
- DWD continued to work with our apprenticeship partners to bridge the Youth and Registered Apprenticeship programs, to allow students to transition seamlessly from high school into a full-time registered apprenticeship career. Bridges have been created in 10 different occupations in the Construction and Manufacturing sectors, including Machinist, Welder, Carpenter, Plumber, Electrician, and more.
- The Wisconsin PROMISE Program has helped nearly 500 youth with disabilities and over 500 of their family members find work while reducing their reliance on Social Security Disability Insurance and other government benefits.
- Wisconsin continued to expand our nationally recognized Project SEARCH program, and in 2017, 11 of the 14 sites that were active in the 2015-2016 school year received national employment outcome awards, ranking Wisconsin in the top 5 internationally in this measure.
- In 2017, Wisconsin was ranked in the top 10 amongst states for the percentage of people with disabilities who were employed, according to the 2016 Annual Disability Statistics Compendium. Since Governor Walker took office, the state has helped over 25,000 individuals with disabilities reach their employment goal through services provided through DVR.
- In Milwaukee, DWD administered the Pipeline to Employment re-entry program for men and women seeking to re-establish themselves as productive members of society. Participants receive a plethora of services to help prepare them for employment. Through November 2017, the program achieved a 70 percent placement rate for the nearly 50 former offenders that participated in the program.
- Between October 1, 2016 and September 30, 2017, 3,096 new apprentices were registered and as of October 1, 2017, Wisconsin had 10,097 total active Registered Apprentices. The Youth Apprenticeship program issued $3.2 million in grants for the 2016-17 year to 32 local partnerships. Enrollment for the 2016-17 school year reached an all-time high, with 3,559 youth from 293 school districts working at 2,540 businesses.
- DWD's network of local Job Centers say attendance of more than 218,000 individuals, with significant services provided to more than 72,000 individuals.
- Wisconsin has now expanded the Project SEARCH program to 27 sites statewide, with over 230 interns participating. Project SEARCH is a national program for young adults with disabilities that provides internships and education that leads to competitive, integrated employment. As of September 30, 2018, 67 percent of PROMISE youth and 66 percent of family members already have or had paid work experience. Youth worked a total of 1,097 jobs and 180 youth graduated high school since enrolling in the PROMISE program.
- Wisconsin's Youth Apprenticeship program continued its expansion in the 2017-2018 school year, experiencing a record number of both student and employer participants after receiving record levels of state funding support. The demand for the program continues to grow, with all three records expected to be broken during the 2018-2019 school year.
- DWD's Office of Veterans Employment Services (OVES), in partnership with the Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation and the Wisconsin Department of Veterans Affairs (DVA), participated in a national campaign to promote Wisconsin as a top state for veterans and their spouses to locate after ending their military service. DWD and partner agencies participated in three transition summits and related events, which attracted more than 3,200 attendees. Nearly half of all veterans and spouses that the team interacted with now have active cases with either DVA or OVES, with state staff providing intensive employment services.
- Wisconsin's Unemployment Insurance Trust Fund, used solely to pay UI benefits to eligible workers and funded by employer taxes, continued its recent growth. The balance of the Trust Fund was over $1.6 billion on June 30, 2018, an increase of 21.4 percent when compared to the same date the previous year.
- Governor Tony Evers appointed Caleb Frostman as Secretary of the Wisconsin Department of Workforce Development on January 7, 2019. Prior to his appointment, he served as Senator of Wisconsin's 1st District, representing Door and Kewaunee counties as well as parts of Brown, Outagamie, Calumet and Manitowoc counties. He previously served as Executive Director of the Door County Economic Development Corporation and worked in commercial real estate finance for nearly a decade.