Forkenbrock Series on Public Policy


Work and Wages: Labor Market Policy in Iowa - Equality, Opportunity, and Public Policy in America

N120 College of Public Health Building (CPHB)
Thursday, October 13th, 2016 6:30 PM


  • Jennifer Sherer

    Jennifer Sherer

    University of Iowa Labor Center

    Jennifer Sherer is Director of The University of Iowa Labor Center, where she coordinates statewide education and outreach programs reaching over 2,500 workers each year and teaches non-credit classes on a range of workplace rights, communications, labor history, union leadership, and public policy subjects. She also directs the Iowa Labor History Oral Project, and serves on the boards of the UI Center for Human Rights, the Iowa Policy Project, the Labor Studies Journal, the UI Occupational Medicine Residency Program, and on the Finance Committee of the Center for Worker Justice of Eastern Iowa.


    She was a co-author of the 2012 Iowa Policy Project report “Wage Theft in Iowa” and is currently working on an article chronicling the history of debates over “right to work” legislation in Iowa. Other forthcoming publications include “Making History Every Day: The Iowa Labor History Oral Project and Popular Education” (forthcoming in Civic Labors: Scholars, Teachers, Activists, and Working-Class History U of Illinois Press) and “Labor Education and Leadership Development for Union Women,” with Emily E LB Twarog, Brigid O’Farrell, and Cheryl Coney (forthcoming in Labor Studies Journal).


    She first gained experience in the labor movement as a local union officer, a Project Staff Organizer for the United Electrical, Radio, and Machine Workers (UE), and an activist in student anti-sweatshop campaigns while earning a PhD in English from the University of Iowa and a BA from Oberlin College.

  • Jesse Case

    Jesse Case

    President, Iowa City Federation of Labor

    Jesse Case has been an organizer for different unions for over 20 years, and currently is the business agent for Teamsters Local 238 . He is past-President of the Iowa City Federation of Labor, and a member of the Johnson County Task Force charged with assessing the implementation and impact of the County's minimum wage ordinance.

  • Rod Sullivan

    Rod Sullivan

    Johnson County Board of Supervisors

    Rod Sullivan of Iowa City is a Johnson County Supervisor, first elected in 2004 at the age of 38.


    Rod grew up on a Heritage farm near Sutliff, and attended K-12 in the Lisbon school system. He went to the University of Iowa, earning a BA in 1988. He has held several positions in the field of human services, including 6 years with the Department of Human Services and 6 years as Executive Director of the Arc of Johnson County.


    Rod is married to Dr. Melissa Fath, a Research Scientist at the UI and a volunteer Pharmacist at the Free Medical Clinic. They have 3 adult children and have served as foster parents for another 40+ children.


    Rod has been active volunteering for the Shelter Overflow, United Way, Community Foundation of Johnson County, Affordable Homes Coalition, Coalition for Racial Justice, City High Little Hawks Club, and the Batterer’s Education Program.


    Rod is a member of several community organizations, including: St. Andrew Presbyterian Church, Iowa Foster & Adoptive Parent Association, Sierra Club, Johnson County Ag Association, Center for Worker Justice, ACLU Hawkeye Chapter, AFT Local 716, and NAMI. He also served 4 years as Chair of the Johnson County Democratic Party.


    Rod feels his biggest accomplishments as a County Supervisor include the passage of several ordinances: Human Rights, Sensitive Areas, Minimum Wage, and Storm Water Management, just to name a few. The passage of the Conservation Bond, kickstarting the 1105 Project, and restoration of the Sutliff Bridge are three proud moments. He is also proud of starting the Livable Community for Successful Aging and Local Foods Policy Boards, along with the County’s first Trails Committee. Rod also points to the Community ID program, rural warning sirens, Free Tax Help program, and investments in sustainability as major accomplishments.

  • Melissa Wright

    Melissa Wright

    US Department of Labor, Wage and Hour Division Representative

    Melissa Wright is the Community Outreach & Resource Planning Specialist for the Des Moines District of the US Department of Labor’s Wage and Hour Division. She is responsible for all community outreach and strategic enforcement planning for the district, which encompasses all of Iowa and Nebraska.   Melissa was an Investigator for five years prior to this position and conducted many complex investigations relating to the Fair Labor Standards Act, Family Medical Leave Act, Davis Bacon Act, and more. She graduated from Drake University and earned both her Bachelor’s and Master’s Degrees in Public Administration.

  • Mazahir Salih

    Mazahir Salih

    Center for Worker Justice of Eastern Iowa

    Mazahir Salih is vice-president of the Center for Worker Justice of Eastern Iowa (CWJ), a dynamic grassroots organization based in Iowa City whose membership is comprised mostly of recent immigrants of Latin American and African origin. As coordinator of CWJ’s Immigration Committee, Ms. Salih has been at the forefront of a host of local initiatives to defend the rights of low-income and immigrant workers including: passing the Midwest’s first Community ID program in Johnson County; convening a coalition of university, labor, and community allies to host free, high-quality naturalization clinics and educational forums on DACA II and DAPA; planning large-scale direct actions in defense of local residents facing deportation; organizing workers to recover unpaid wages; and winning a commitment from county law enforcement to reverse a prior policy of honoring all ICE detention requests. She advocates for the civil rights of local residents as a member of the Iowa City Police Citizens Review Board, and traveled to Washington, DC to testify before members of the Senate Judiciary Committee during immigration reform debates in 2013.

    A first-generation immigrant to the U.S. from Sudan, Ms. Salih has been a community activist for decades. Shortly after arriving in the U.S., she attended the Parent Leadership Institute and served as the Vice-President of the Head Start Policy Council in Alexandria, Virginia. In addition to her volunteer leadership with CWJ in Iowa City, she has held the position of academic secretary with the local Sudanese-American Community Association. She is studying electroneurodiagnostic technology at Kirkwood Community College, and lives in Iowa City with her husband and five children.