The Wisconsin Labor History Society announces its High School Essay Contest for the 2013-2014 School Year!

Your name here,

The Wisconsin Labor History Society announces its High School Essay Contest for the 2013-2014 School Year! All Wisconsin high school students (grades 9-12) are eligible to participate. Students are urged to interview family members, neighbors, friends or others for their stories about work and unions.  Win cash prizes up to $500 for essays of about 750 words on the topic:

“Unions have been important to my family and my community because . . .”

First place, second place, third place and up to five honorable mention cash prizes will  be awarded.  Read winning essay from 2012-13 contest!  Go to:

Rules: Essays should be approximately 750 words in length. They will be judged on understanding, evidence of original research, writing style and significance. Essays must be typed, double-spaced, on white paper. Two copies must be submitted (One may be a photocopy.) Please be sure to provide the following information on the cover sheet: Your name, address, home telephone number, your grade in school, name and address of your school, and, if you were encouraged or assisted by a teacher, the teacher’s name. (Also, list your family’s union membership, if applicable.) If you have any questions, contact: Harvey J. Kaye (920-465-2355 or Submissions must be postmarked Feb. 14, 2014 or before.

Send completed essays to:

Prof. Harvey J. Kaye
Center for History and Social Change
University of Wisconsin-Green Bay, Green Bay WI 54311


Congratulations to Chantel Givens of Chippewa Falls Senior High School for her First Place Winner in the 2012-2013 Essay Contest! Below is her top prize essay.

“Unions have been important to my family and my community because … ”
Freezing toes, fingers, and nose. My parents have donuts and coffee in hand and cappuccino for my sister and me. It’s 5:30 am and we are boarding the bus. Madison here we come!

Justin Givens is my dad, who was a part of AFSCME since January 3, 1999. My dad started working as a Correctional Officer at Green Bay Correctional Institution. He worked there for 5 years; we then moved to Chippewa Falls, WI. When my family moved to Chippewa Falls, my dad started working at Stanley Correctional Institution where he worked for seven years as a Correctional Officer and became President of his local. My dad then transferred to Chippewa Valley Correctional Treatment Facility, where he was also president of his local. After being there two years, he stepped down from being the president of his local, from being a member of the union, and from state service. My dad never imagined after being a part of the union for 14 years that he would be searching for another job. He said being a member of the union gave the workers a collective voice and showed him that working conditions were best when everyone had a stake in it. On June 29, 2011 Governor Scott Walker proposed a bill and a lot of things changed for those who were a part of the union. When he passed Act 10, many state employees were in panic, fear, and depression.  He took away union members’ collective bargaining rights. Collective bargaining rights are negotiations set between an employer and a group of employees that cover wages, working hours, training, health and safety, and overtime.

All families should care about the union because the union provided people their weekends, gave people their fair wages and helped end child labor laws. My family was really affected by this bill that was passed. Not only did my dad face struggles but so did my family. Safety issues were a concern for my dad every day when he went to work and even at home making sure our lives were safe as well. He had a stress related heart condition soon after the Bill was passed because it was so hard on him; knowing everything he and others worked for was gone. All of his effort that he put into being a member of the union no longer meant anything. My family was affected by it substantially because my dad had to miss out on mine and my sister’s sporting events. He had to miss out on our family hobbies, holidays, and wasn’t home much to spend quality time with us. He put his heart and soul and almost all spare time into being extremely active in the statewide union and political movement.

Being active in the union applied to more than just my dad, but also my step mom, sister, and I put a lot of time into supporting the union. Each and every one of us knew the importance of what he was fighting for. We attended many union functions together. My whole family took off of work and school and went to Madison to “voice our opinion.” I wasn’t quite sure what to expect and neither was my sister! A group of people who were also a part of the union took four buses to the capital. I know my dad helped organize and fill these buses daily. When we arrived there was no time for waiting. We all got right off that bus with pride and ambition, marching into the capitol to prove a point. By going on that bus trip to Madison, I learned so much about what was happening around me and how it was affecting members of the union. By the end of the day I felt proud of what I did and knew it was worth it. I also participated in my schools “walk out” shortly after the Bill was announced. After being in Madison, I had learned more about what I was “walking out” for. I wasn’t doing it to skip class.  I was doing it to prove a point and stand up for what I believe in. I was supporting not only my dad but ALL union members.

Since I was born I’ve been affected by the union because my dad has been a part of one my whole life. After talking to my dad even while writing this essay, I’ve learned a lot about what he has been a part of and how it has affected him and his career.

From standing in the cold voicing my opinion at the capitol, to walking out of class with pride, I realized I was doing what I had been taught at the kitchen table. I was being a union activist.


Spread the word and encourage high school students you know to get working on an essay today!

In Solidarity,

Phil Neuenfeldt, President

Stephanie Bloomingdale, Secretary-Teasurer

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