Institute for the American Worker Announces Inaugural Group of Senior Fellows  

March 17, 2021
CONTACT:  Mary Ellen Beatty,


FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE—The Institute for the American Worker (I4AW) is pleased to announce that it has named eight extraordinary labor policy experts to serve as the Institute’s senior fellows.  

These distinguished experts have impressive backgrounds ranging from executive agency and regulatory experience to legal and policy leads at the foremost labor policy organizations in the country.   

Institute for the American Worker will collaborate and elevate the existing work of these senior fellows to support the shared mission and educational initiatives of their respective organizations including Americans for Prosperity, Freedom Foundation, Mackinac Center for Public Policy, National Right-to-Work Legal Defense Foundation, and the Stand Together Chamber of Commerce.   

“We are honored to bring together some of the greatest analytical and strategic minds from the most respected policy organizations working on free market labor policy,” said F. Vincent Vernuccio, president and founder of the Institute for the American Worker.   

With real-time research and training, the Institute for the American Worker equips policymakers with the tools they need to stand for American workers.  

Besides providing for opportunities for collaboration and original research, I4AW will showcase the work these experts are already doing, connecting them to policymakers across the nation’s capital and ensure that decision makers in Washington have access to the most relevant and pertinent labor research available

Below please find a list of I4AW’s new senior fellows: 


James SherkFormer White House Domestic Policy Advisor on labor, special assistant to the President, and former research fellow in labor economics at The Heritage Foundation.

James served as Special Assistant to the President for Domestic Policy on the White House Domestic Policy Council. At the White House James served as President Trump’s top civil service reform and labor policy advisor between 2017 and 2021. He had primary White House responsibility for developing and coordinating policy with Federal labor agencies, including the Department of Labor, Office of Personnel Management, and the National Labor Relations Board.  

James led the inter-agency working group that produced Labor Department regulations updating the salaried overtime threshold, defining joint employment under the Fair Labor Standards Act, clarifying which employee benefits count towards an employee’s regular rate of pay for overtime purposes; and requiring union trust funds to file financial transparency reports.  

James was the architect of the Trump administration’s Federal labor relations strategy. He was also the principal author of and/or policy lead for approximately two dozen executive orders and presidential memoranda. These included executive orders that streamlined the process for dismissing poor performers, directed the renegotiation of agency union contracts, and limited taxpayer-funded union time (EO’s 13836, 13837, and 13839), as well as Executive Order 13487 that allowed small businesses to offer Association Health Plans. James additionally served as a member of the President’s Council on Improving Federal Civic Architecture. 

Prior to his White House service, James was a Research Fellow in Labor Economics at the Heritage Foundation. At Heritage James was a nationally recognized expert on labor markets, labor policy, and the civil service. Congress and state legislatures frequently asked for his expert testimony. James’s commentary and analysis have been featured in publications such as the Wall Street JournalNew York Times, and the National Review. He also has been featured as a guest expert on Fox News, CNN, and ABC, among others. James received a B.S. in Mathematics and Economics from Hillsdale College and an M.A. in Economics from the University of Rochester. 


John Raudabaugh – Current labor law Professor at the Ave Maria School of Law and National Right-to-Work Legal Defense Foundation attorney and former NLRB Member

Professor Raudabaugh teaches labor law and a labor law practicum. He practiced law for nearly 40 years in the areas
of labor law, employee relations, comparative labor and employment law, international labor standards, social responsibility initiatives and compliance, strategic counseling, appropriate unit design, collective bargaining and arbitration, union organizing and corporate campaigns, representation and unfair labor practice litigation, and strikes and injunction proceedings and related litigation. He represents employees before the U.S. National Labor Relations Board and federal appellate courts as staff attorney with the National Right to Work Legal Defense and Education Foundation.  

Professor Raudabaugh served as Aide and Flag Lieutenant to the Senior Admiral in the U.S. Navy Supply Corps. He was nominated by President George H.W. Bush, confirmed by the U.S. Senate, and served as a Member of the U.S. National Labor Relations Board deciding over 4,000 cases. He practiced labor law in nationally and internationally recognized law firms, represented U.S. employers at the International Labor Organization, assisted the U.S. State Department in international discussions regarding trade agreements and labor law compliance, and in advising foreign governments regarding domestic labor law. Professor Raudabaugh assisted U.S. congressional representatives and senators in drafting legislation and testified before House and Senate Committees regarding labor law matters. 


Nathan Mehrens – Former Department of Labor Associate Deputy Secretary, Acting Assistant Secretary for Policy and Deputy Assistant Secretary for Policy and former President at Americans for Limited Government  

Nathan is a Washington, D.C. lawyer. He previously served in several senior positions in the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL). From 2019-2021 he served as the Associate Deputy Secretary of Labor. In that position he managed regulatory and policy development for the Deputy Secretary. He reviewed all draft regulations and worked with the Department’s agencies to ensure that regulations were completed on schedule. During his tenure, final regulations were completed in the areas of wage and hour laws, employee benefits, federal contract compliance, health and safety, union financial transparency, and others. Mehrens served on the Department’s Regulatory Reform Task Force. He also managed day to day interactions with the Department’s three adjudicatory boards (Administrative Review Board, Benefits Review Board, and Employees’ Compensation Appeals Board) and the Department’s Office of Administrative Law Judges. Mehrens participated in the President’s Management Council through the White House Office of Management and Budget. He also worked with the Department’s agencies in the areas of budget development, human resources, technology investments, and shared services. Reviewed and cleared all decision memos for the Secretary and Deputy Secretary. He also managed the Department’s responses to classified national security issues for the Office of the Secretary. 

From 2017-2019 Mehrens served as DOL’s Acting Assistant Secretary for Policy and Deputy Assistant Secretary for Policy. In those positions he served as the Department’s Regulatory Policy Officer. He managed the Department’s regulatory and policy development process. He managed the career senior executives on the Policy Office staff, and oversaw the Department’s Chief Evaluation Office. Additionally, he managed interactions with components of the Executive Office of the President, including the Domestic Policy Council, the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs, and the White House Staff Secretary. He also managed the Department’s interactions with the U.S. Government Accountability Office. 

In 2017, he also served as Special Assistant to the Secretary. From 2009-2017, Mehrens served at Americans for Limited Government (ALG). He led ALG’s advocacy efforts, managed its operations, and served as the organization’s primary spokesman. He served as President of ALG’s foundation before leaving to join DOL.  Prior to his time at ALG Mehrens served, from 2006-2009, as a Special Assistant in the DOL’s Office of Labor-Management Standards. His prior work includes stints at Home School Legal Defense Association, and consulting on labor and employment issues. 


Akash Chougule –Current Vice President of the Economic Opportunity Initiative at the Stand Together Chamber of Commerce and former Republican staffer on the House Education and Labor Committee

Akash is Vice President of the Economic Opportunity Initiative at the Stand Together Chamber of Commerce, a community of organizations breaking down barriers in the four key institutions of society – business, communities, government, and higher education – to help people improve their lives. Prior to Stand Together, Akash served as a Professional Staff Member at the Committee on Education and Labor in the U.S. House of Representatives. Prior to the House, Akash was the Director of Policy at Americans for Prosperity, the nation’s largest free-market grassroots advocacy organization.
 Akash has contributed commentary on the Fox News Channel, Fox Business Network, and National Public Radio, and his writing has appeared in the Wall Street Journal, USA Today, New York Post, and many other publications. He was previously selected to Forbes Magazine’s “30 Under 30” for Law & Policy, received a Bachelor’s degree in Political Science from Boston College, and a Master’s degree from George Washington University. 


Trey Kovacs – Former Special Assistant at the U.S. Department of Labor’s Office of Labor-Management Standards (the DOL offices that oversees union transparency) and former labor policy analyst at the Competitive Enterprise Institute 

As an author, analyst, and government official, Trey is a proven leader of efforts to protect worker freedom, reduce harmful workplace rules and promote competition. Kovacs’ research and analysis have covered a wide range of labor policy issues that address National Labor Relations Board and National Mediation Board rules, wage and hour requirements, union financial transparency, and government unions. In addition, his work has been cited in federal rulemakings, Congressional reports and major publications. As a policy analyst for the Competitive Enterprise Institute, Kovacs testified on labor policy issues before the U.S. House Oversight and Government Reform’s Subcommittees on Government Operations and Economic Opportunity. His popular commentary can be found in The Wall Street JournalThe Washington Post, The Washington Times, and The Hill, among many other publications. His work has been cited by major publications including The New York TimesLos Angeles Times, The Guardian, Fox News, among many others. Most recently, Kovacs was a Special Assistant at the U.S. Department of Labor’s Office of Labor-Management Standards, where he focused on protecting union democracy and safeguarding union members’ assets. 


Maxford Nelsen – Current director of labor policy for the Freedom Foundation and former member of the Federal Service Impasses Panel
Maxford Nelsen is the director of labor policy for the Freedom Foundation, a nonprofit policy advocacy and public interest litigation organization based in Olympia, Wash. with offices around the country.  In addition to researching and writing about labor policy issues, with an emphasis on public-sector unions, Max regularly testifies before local governments and state legislatures and submits formal comments to federal agencies considering regulatory actions affecting labor policy. His research has formed the basis of several briefs submitted to the U.S. Supreme Court and dozens of formal complaints submitted to government agencies regarding illegal union activity.  Max’s work has been published in local newspapers around the country and in national outlets like the Wall Street JournalForbesThe HillNational Review and the American Spectator. He has also discussed his work in interviews featured on Fox News, PBS News Hour, One America News, and Newsmax. He is regularly interviewed on local radio and TV stations in the Pacific Northwest.  

 From 2019-21, Max served as a presidential appointee to the Federal Service Impasses Panel within the Federal Labor Relations Authority. Members serve part-time and resolve contract negotiation disputes between federal agencies and labor unions. Prior to joining the Freedom Foundation in 2013, Max worked for the Washington Policy Center and interned with the Heritage Foundation. Max graduated magna cum laude from Whitworth University with a B.A. in political science. He lives in Washington state with his wife and son.


Austen BannanCurrent senior policy analyst of employment at Americans for Prosperity

Austen is Senior Policy Analyst of Employment at Americans for Prosperity. His previous experience includes as senior Policy Analyst at the Charles Koch Institute, a legislative staffer in the U.S. Congress, and Director of Outreach at the Ripon Society.


Michael Reitz – Current Executive Vice President at the Mackinac Center for Public Policy 

Michael  is executive vice president of the Mackinac Center for Public Policy, an independent, nonprofit research and educational institute based in Midland, Michigan. Reitz oversees policy development, communications, fundraising and the Center’s strategic plan. Since joining the Mackinac Center in 2012, Reitz has overseen efforts to advance free-market recommendations in Michigan. The team’s victories include right-to-work legislation, pension reform for school employees, criminal justice reform and ground-breaking legislation to expand ridesharing in the state. 

Before joining the Mackinac Center, Reitz was with the Freedom Foundation in Olympia, Washington, as its general counsel and director of labor policy. While there, he litigated for accurate elections, defended the First Amendment rights of individuals, fought against governmental abuses of power and wrote extensively on constitutional law. Reitz has overseen the Center’s effort to inform public employees of their rights through outreach, legal support and legislative affairs. In the past five years, the Center has educated more than 100,000 government workers about their First Amendment rights.  

Reitz is president of the Michigan Coalition for Open Government, an organization that educates citizens about the importance of government transparency. He serves on the board of Americans for Fair Treatment, which offers resources and support to public sector union members. Reitz frequently comments on public policy issues and has been cited by the Wall Street Journal, the Los Angeles Times, the Boston Globe, the Seattle Times and other publications. He is a co-author of “To Protect and Maintain Individual Rights,” a reference guide to the Declaration of Rights in the Washington Constitution. Reitz received his law degree from Oak Brook College of Law and Government Policy. He is a member of the Washington bar and is admitted to practice before the U.S. Supreme Court and the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit.