A farewell from EPI’s President

It has been my honor, privilege, and joy to lead the Economic Policy Institute for the last three and a half years. For me, EPI has been a vibrant intellectual community for more than 30 years. I wandered in the door as an inexperienced trade economist in the 1990s, consumed and distributed EPI’s excellent research during the 20 years I was at the AFL-CIO, and then became president of EPI in 2018.

During my tenure, with the invaluable partnership of Vice President John Schmitt, EPI has grown its staff, expanded its work, strengthened its voice and impact, forged new partnerships, deepened its state policy work via the EARN network, and sharpened its focus on racial justice through expansion of the Program on Race, Ethnicity, and the Economy, as well as throughout our work.

So it is with a heavy heart that I announce that I will be leaving EPI on May 7. I have accepted a job in the Biden/Harris administration. It is not easy to leave an organization like EPI—and the extraordinarily brilliant, insightful, and delightful staff—but I believe there is a short window that provides an opportunity for me to contribute to work I care deeply about.

I have complete, unshakable confidence in EPI, its staff, and its work. I know how valuable, timely, and thoughtful that work has been and will continue to be—especially now. EPI is well positioned to shape and inform the bold, ambitious policy agenda laid out by the new administration and Congress.

EPI’s wonderful board of directors, led by Board Chairman Richard Trumka and the executive committee, will organize a national search for the next president, who will have the good fortune to lead this stellar organization on to do the Research that builds Worker Power so we can achieve Justice. For the duration of the search, John Schmitt has generously and graciously agreed to step in as interim president. With his deep experience, John will ensure a smooth and successful transition.

I know EPI will continue to advance its mission to strengthen workers’ voice and power at the workplace and beyond and to make the world fairer and more humane. I will be eternally grateful that I had the opportunity to work alongside EPI’s amazing staff, and I look forward to staying connected in this next chapter for me and for EPI.

(On May 10, Thea Lee joined the U.S. Department of Labor as Deputy Undersecretary of Labor to lead International Labor Affairs Bureau.)