Dr. Michael Merrill is Appointed Director of LEARN
Friday, Mar 25, 2016

Rutgers School of Management and Labor Relations (SMLR) is pleased to announce the appointment of Dr. Michael Merrill as a full Professor of Professional Practice in the Department of Labor Studies and Employment Relations and Director of its LEARN initiative (Labor Education Action Research Network), effective July 1, 2016. Dr. Merrill will be working closely with local and regional union partners across the state, as well as colleagues at Rutgers, to deepen and grow the school's labor education and research services. 

Dr. Merrill is a nationally respected labor educator and historian who has been involved in the New Jersey labor movement for many years. He returns to Rutgers, where he worked from 1986-1998, after having served since 2004 as Dean of The Harry Van Arsdale Jr. Center for Labor Studies at SUNY Empire State College in New York City. 

"We are very happy that Mike Merrill has decided to join our growing group of experienced labor educators and practitioners as the next Director of LEARN," reports Marilyn Sneiderman, SMLR Director of Labor and Community Engagement.

Professor Sneiderman also especially thanked Professor Carla Katz "for her heroic service" and stewardship as LEARN's acting Director during the past three years. "Many thanks to Professor Katz for her innovative ideas that increased the visibility and reach of our labor extension programs, as well as fostering stronger relationships with our labor partners," she said. "As a result of the efforts of Carla and the LEARN staff, LEARN is now better positioned for diversification and expansion than it has ever been." In addition to her academic teaching responsibility, Professor Katz has agreed to continue to stay actively involved in the labor extension programs.

During his first decade at Rutgers, Dr. Merrill helped pioneer a rank-and-file worker trainer approach to health & safety education for the Oil, Chemical and Atomic Workers (OCAW), which is now part of the United Steelworkers' national education program. He also adapted the same innovative approach to education and training programs still being offered by the Rutgers Occupational Training & Education Consortium (OTEC)

In 1998, Charles Wowkanech, who had just been elected president of the New Jersey State American Federation of Labor and Congress of Industrial Organizations (AFL-CIO), named Dr. Merrill its first Director of Education and Training. In that role, he advised local unions on education and training issues and helped New Jersey local and regional labor bodies secure Youth Transition to Work grants from the New Jersey Department of Education. He also worked closely with the New Jersey Department of Labor and the AFL-CIO to implement the 1998 Workforce Investment Act.

In 2002, Dr. Merrill was recruited to direct the national AFL-CIO's George Meany Archives in Silver Spring, MD, and to be an Assistant Provost at the new National Labor College (NLC). At the NLC, he led the self-study team responsible for securing the accreditation of the George Meany Center for Labor Studies as a nationally-recognized degree-granting institution.

Two years later, Dr. Merrill left the NLC to become the Dean of the Van Arsdale Center, which he transformed into a flourishing academic center. Its students' writing is collected annually in an award-winning anthology, Labor Writes, and its graduates have won SUNY Chancellor Awards for Student Excellence 5 out of the last 6 years.

Dr. Merrill has also written a number highly regarded essays on U.S. economic and labor history, including "The Anticapitalist Origins of the United States" (1990), "Trust in Training: The OCAW Worker-to-Worker Education Program" (1998), "The Promise of Service Worker Unionism" (with Dorothy Sue Cobble) (2009), and "How Capitalism Got its Name" (2014).

In addition to his duties as LEARN Director, he will also teach at least once a year in the university's regular academic programs.

SMLR Dean James Hayton says, "Dr. Merrill brings a wide range of valuable experience that can benefit our school, our partners, and participants in the LEARN program. We look forward to working with him to further enhance LEARN's offerings. Please join me in welcoming him to Rutgers SMLR."