Trump’s New Labor Adviser a Former Heritage Fellow

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By Ben Penn

The White House has appointed James Sherk, a former Heritage Foundation fellow who opposes substantial minimum wage hikes and expanded union rights, to advise the president on labor and employment issues.

Sherk slid over to the White House Domestic Policy Council without an announcement several weeks ago, sources briefed on the move told Bloomberg BNA Feb. 23. He was on the Labor Department’s landing team during the presidential transition, and starting on Jan. 20, he briefly served on the DOL’s “beachhead team” of temporary political appointees.

Sherk worked for seven years as a labor economist at the conservative Heritage Foundation, which supports limited government policies. He researched a range of workplace topics, writing papers on the benefits of right-to-work laws, the economic damage of public sector collective bargaining and job cuts caused by a $15 minimum wage.

Echoing President Donald Trump during the campaign, Sherk regularly criticized the Bureau of Labor Statistics jobs report as overstating employment progress under President Barack Obama. He has testified before Congress opposing Obama administration labor policies.

Role Specifics Not Clear

The White House DPC’s labor and employment adviser is an undefined role that changes depending on the president.

Portia Wu, who later became a DOL assistant secretary, and Benjamin Olinsky served in the role under Obama. Both were called on to be the president’s special assistant on workforce issues, helping to frame DOL’s significant role in carrying out Obama’s second-term policy agenda.

It’s unclear how much responsibility Trump and his DPC director will delegate to Sherk.

Sherk didn’t immediately reply to a message sent to his personal e-mail address. Representatives for the White House and the DOL did not immediately reply to requests to confirm his new position. A Heritage Foundation spokeswoman confirmed that Sherk no longer works there.

Sherk received an undergraduate degree from Hillsdale College and an M.A. from the University of Rochester, with a focus on labor economics, according to his LinkedIn profile.

To contact the reporter on this story: Ben Penn in Washington at bpenn@bna.com

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Peggy Aulino at maulino@bna.com; Terence Hyland at thyland@bna.com; Christopher Opfer at copfer@bna.com

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