Jennifer M. Harmer

PhD Candidate

Fields of Study

Areas of Interest

  • Union administration
  • Public sector work
  • Public policy

Working Dissertation


How do unions do it? Understanding the internal management practices of unions


Rafael Gomez


Jen’s research is the Canadian component of an international effort to study union administration.  The International Union Administration Project is run by a network of researchers in the United States, United Kingdom, Australia, and Canada.  This is the first time the Canadian perspective will be included in the international study since the initial wave of data collection that took place approx. 30 years ago.  Jen’s research documents Canadian unions from the perspective of their internal human resource management (HRM) practices.  These practices include recruitment, selection, training, development, as well as performance management and other strategies focused on the administration of the workforce.  It also considers if select findings in HRM research are universal in nature and can be applied to the union context.  Further, it attempts to understand if internal HRM practices are a source of competitive advantage for unions by exploring if these practices can be tied to organizational outcomes such as union expansion.


Jen is a PhD candidate at the Centre for Industrial Relations & Human Resources. After obtaining an undergraduate degree in labour studies and political science at McMaster University, Jen obtained a Master’s degree in Public Administration at Western University. After graduation, Jen joined a policy shop in the field of municipal finance at the Government of Ontario.  She worked in progressive positions from economist to manager before pursuing a PhD. Management experience has helped her develop skills to bridge the world of research and practical application. She hopes her efforts at the university will improve knowledge about the world of work and will have a meaningful impact on workplaces in Canada and beyond. Jen is also passionate about international development and in 2014 embarked on a trip around the world.



MPA Public Administration, Western University (2006-2007)
BA Honours Labour Studies & Political Science, McMaster University (2002-2006)


Zhang, Q., Harmer, J.M., Ponak, A., Taras, D., & Steel, P. (2019). Do arbitrators procrastinate? Understanding how work habits affect retirement behaviour. Vancouver: Canadian Industrial Relations Association annual meeting.
Harmer, J.M., Zhang, Q., Ponak, A., Taras, D., & Steel, P. (2019). Do arbitrators procrastinate? Understanding how work habits affect retirement behaviour. Cleveland, OH: Labor and Employment Relations Association annual meeting.
Ponak, A., Taras, D., Steel, P., Zhang, Q., & Harmer, J.M. (2018). Do arbitrators procrastinate? Vancouver: National Academy of Arbitrators annual meeting.

Administrative Service

Program Committee, LERA 74th Annual Meeting, Labor and Employment Relations Association (LERA) 2021-2022
Committee member, Development Committee, Labor and Employment Relations Association (LERA) 2019-2022
Co-chair, Graduate student consortium, International Labour and Employment Relations Association (ILERA) Regional Congress for the Americas 2020
PhD student representative, Centre for Industrial Relations and Human Resources (CIRHR) 2018-19