Labor Center Staff
Jennifer Sherer, Director
Jennifer Sherer has served as director of the Labor Center since 2008, and has taught at the Center on a broad range of workplace rights, union leadership, and public policy subjects since 2005. Special areas of interest include work-family issues and workplace enforcement of the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA), labor communications, contract campaigns, internal organizing, labor-community coalitions, labor history, and global labor solidarity initiatives and international labor rights.
She first joined the Labor Center in 2002 to work on the Child Labor Public Education Project, part of a two-year UI Child Labor Research Initiative funded by the U.S. Department of Labor, that delivered scores of outreach workshops and several published adult education modules on the subject of child labor in global context.
Prior to joining the Labor Center, Jennifer taught for several years as a graduate instructor in the UI Dept. of Rhetoric, the Dept. of English, and the UI Writing Center. She first gained direct experience in the labor movement as an officer in UI Local 896-COGS (the Campaign to Organize Graduate Students), a Project Staff Organizer on several organizing campaigns for the United Electrical, Radio, and Machine Workers (UE), and a student activist in campus anti-sweatshop campaigns.
She also currently directs the Iowa Labor History Oral Project (ILHOP), and serves on the editorial board of the Labor Studies Journal, and the boards of the Labor and Working Class History Association, the Iowa Policy Project, the UI Center for Human Rights, and the UI Occupational Medicine Residency program.
Jennifer holds a PhD in English from The University of Iowa and a BA from Oberlin College. She is a member of the American Federation of Teachers (AFT) Local 716 and the United Association for Labor Education, and served on the steering committee of the UALE/Berger-Marks national Women's Labor Education project in 2013-2014.
Robin Clark-Bennett, Labor Educator
Robin Clark-Bennett returned to the Labor Center in 2008 after having previously worked on the Labor Center's Child Labor Public Education Project from 2002-2004. Robin's areas of expertise include internal and external organizing, one-on-one communication, coalition building, contract campaigns, labor history, immigration law and policy, and its intersections with labor rights in the workplace.
Robin served as lead instructor and curriculum developer for a 2010-2012 U.S. Department of Justice funded regional public education project on the workplace nondiscrimination rights of immigrant workers, and has continued to coordinate several successful Labor Center partnerships and public conferences to provide community-based workers' rights education as an outgrowth of this project.
Robin began her work with the labor movement as a summer intern with the International Ladies' Garment Workers' Union (ILGWU) in New York City in 1992 and 1993. Since 1994, she has worked as an organizer, regional organizing coordinator, and staff representative in several unions including the Amalgamated Clothing and Textile Workers Union (ACTWU; later the Union of Needletrades, Industrial, and Textile Employees, UNITE), the Service Employees' International Union (SEIU), and the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME).
Robin holds a BA from Yale University where she studied history, with an emphasis on U.S. labor history in the twentieth century. She is a member of AFT Local 716, a founding board member of the Center for Worker Justice of Eastern Iowa, a member of the United Association for Labor Education, and past co-chair of the UALE Immigration and Globalization Working Group. She is fluent in Spanish.
Paul Iversen, Labor Educator
Paul Iversen joined the Labor Center staff as a Labor Educator in January, 2011. He teaches on a range of subjects, and has particular expertise in labor and employment law, contract administration and enforcement, labor arbitration, occupational health and safety, and building and construction trades issues (including the application of Davis-Bacon and prevailing wage statutes).
Paul came to the Labor Center after having worked as a labor attorney in private practice in Minnesota for 22 years, where he gained extensive experience representing private and public sector unions in legal matters, organizing and collective bargaining, and providing education and training to client unions in legal matters.
While in private practice, Paul served as an ad hoc instructor for the University of Minnesota Labor Education Service for approximately 13 years, and was an adjunct professor of Labor Law for William Mitchell College of Law in St. Paul, Minnesota from 2008-2010. He was also a long-time member of the American Bar Association Committee on the Development of the Law under the National Labor Relations Act, and served as its union-side chair from 2007-2009. In this capacity, Paul worked in various editorial roles on The Developing Labor Law, a leading treatise on private sector labor law.
Paul holds a JD from the University of Minnesota and a BA in Economics from Carleton College. He is a member of AFT Local 716, the United Association for Labor Education, and the AFL-CIO Lawyers Coordinating Committee. He currently serves as the Midwest Regional representative on the national UALE executive board.
John McKerley, Oral Historian
John McKerley joined the Labor Center staff in 2013. He is historian and lead interviewer for the Iowa Labor History Oral Project (ILHOP), a joint initiative of the Iowa Federation of Labor, UI Labor Center, and the Iowa State Historical Society that has been documenting the lives and labors of Iowa's workers since 1974. With over 1,200 interviews (more than 100 added by John), ILHOP constitutes one of the largest, longest running, and most significant labor-focused oral history collections in the world.
John received his PhD in U.S. social history, with an emphasis on labor and African American history, from The University of Iowa in 2008. His early work focused on black civil (and especially political) rights in the South, Border South, and Midwest. In this vein, his publications include a volume of oral histories with veterans of the Birmingham, Alabama civil rights movement (Illinois, 2009) and an article on black suffrage activism in Reconstruction Missouri that appeared in a state-of-the-field volume on the Kansas-Missouri Border War (Kansas, 2013).
His work at ILHOP has brought him back to a focus on labor and to a new interest in immigrant and refugee workers. His is co-editor of a forthcoming volume of essays on the "labor tradition" of engaged scholarship (Illinois, 2016), and he is revising an earlier book on the history of Iowa City carpenters Local 1260 as a work of digital and public scholarship, Building Solidarity: Iowa Carpenters in the 20th Century. In 2015, he received an Archie Green Fellowship from the American Folklife Center at the U.S. Library of Congress to collect a series of ILHOP oral history interviews with foreign-born workers in Iowa's meatpacking industry. He plans to follow up the fellowship experience with an article on the theory and practice of interviewing immigrant and refugee workers and a volume of oral histories.
In addition to his duties at the Labor Center, John serves as an adjunct assistant professor in the UI Dept. of History, where he teaches courses on labor history and the Progressive Era. He also works with undergraduate and graduate students on topics related to ILHOP and oral history. Before returning to Iowa, John taught U.S., labor, and African American history for a range of institutions, including the University of Maryland-College Park and Indiana University.
During his time as a graduate instructor at Iowa, John was active in UE Local 896-COGS, serving as recording secretary, chair of the labor solidarity committee, and a delegate to three international conferences focused on public sector workers' rights. He is a member of the Oral History Association, Labor and Working-Class History Association, Organization of American Historians, and AFT Local 716.
Sarah Clark, Secretary
Sarah was delighted to re-join the Labor Center staff in July 2010, after a 20-year hiatus on the West Coast. Sarah handles administrative work, registration and conference logistics, and materials preparation associated with all Labor Center on-campus and off-campus programming.
During her years in California, she first worked at San Jose State University, followed by 15 years working for IFPTE Local 21, a public employee union based in the San Francisco Bay area. She also gained substantial labor leadership experience, serving as an officer of OPEIU Local 3. Sarah currently serves as the Treasurer of AFSCME Local 12.