Historic Coalition Meeting with San Francisco Federal Reserve Board President John C. Williams

FedReservePhoto-2015A national coalition of the AFL-CIO, the Center for Popular Democracy (CPD), and the Alliance of Californians for Community Empowerment (ACCE) was formed to create a campaign to engage the Federal Reserve Bank in all 12 districts across the nation. The campaign’s focus is to create a relationship of ongoing dialogue within the Fed to make sure that the economic needs of ordinary working men and women have a voice at the table. Our goal is to create a grassroots voice to challenge the traditional Wall Street-driven analysis that Fed members rely upon to decide monetary policy.

Our campaign was also designed to advocate for community and labor seats on the regional boards, as well as on a newly created community advisory committee.

With the progressive leadership of Board of Governors Chair Janet Yellen, recently appointed by President Obama, a consumer advocate as well as an advocate for adding economic inequality into the metrics for monetary decisions, we decided to take this opportunity to support worker voices and values.

Our main goals were to initiate a dialogue to counter the national blunt instrument economic data that merely pointed to indications that there is aggregate employment and economic growth without looking at what worker realities really mean.

We would point out:

  • Wage stagnation
  • Underemployed workers & workers working 2-3 jobs
  • New job creation is paying much less than before the economic collapse of 2008

After a coordinated national rally outside all 12 Federal Reserve Branch Banks across the nation in 2014, our San Francisco coalition received an invitation to meet with San Francisco Board President John Williams to address our concerns.

Each city and region has different flavors to their local coalitions and I believe that our meeting last week was historic and groundbreaking. Our local San Francisco coalition strategized for weeks and was fully prepared for our meeting and I believe the results belied our local strategy of engagement.

This national coalition has had meetings in Boston and Kansas City, but in other areas of the country our coalition has been either rebuffed or ignored.

Besides local representatives of the San Francisco Labor Council, CDP, and ACCE we invited Dr. Steven Pitts, labor economist at the University of California, Berkeley, and Derecka Meherens, Executive Director of Working Partnerships USA and co-convener of Silicon Valley Rising, a faith, community and labor coalition that is fighting for housing and economic justice in the South Bay.

Workers from ACCE, UNITE HERE Local 2, and SEIU USWW presented testimony about how the economy is not working for wage earners and that raw unemployment numbers don’t tell the true story of underemployment and creation of verifiable living wage jobs.

At our coalition meeting we asked the San Francisco Fed for four places to engage with our worker coalition:

Don’t Raise Interest Rates
Since the unemployment rate is a blunt tool for measuring the labor market’s strength, we urge the Federal Reserve to evaluate remaining slack by looking at wage growth. Until wage growth is at least 4%, there cannot be any wage-driven inflation pressure. Given the lack of any real inflation threats, there is no need to act prematurely and raise interest rates before the economy has reached full health. We ask that you hold off on any interest rate hikes for the rest of 2015.

Establish an Ongoing Relationship with Our Organizations

  • Come to a town hall or union meeting to hear from workers
  • Take a tour of one of the neighborhoods where our members live and work
  • Attend an event where you can meet our members and their families
  • Attend an event where you give a speech to our members and the public and answer their questions about the economy and the Fed

Assign Staff to Help get Banks to Invest in Community Housing
HUD, Fannie Mae, and Freddie Mac, and some other major banks are selling off pools of delinquent mortgages to private equity firms, hedge funds, and other Wall Street entities. We would like to see those mortgages be sold to nonprofits that have raised the necessary capital to compete in this market for the purpose of saving homes from foreclosure and creating affordable housing. We would like the SF Fed’s help in convening conversations with commercial banks to explore this possibility.

Set Up Procedures to be More Transparent in Appointing the President and Board Members
The Board of Directors of the San Francisco Fed includes 8 representatives from banks and corporations and only 1 representative from a nonprofit. It includes no representation from labor, consumer, or community-based organizations. We would like the Federal Reserve to add more voices of those who represent working families to its Board of Directors.

President Williams was very engaged in our two hour dialogue and agreed to (2) and (3) and said that the transparency model (4) initiated by the Minneapolis branch was something he would be committed to pursue.

See the Reuters article that followed our meeting.

The coalition will be planning the best ways to pursue these breakthroughs. Every policy, issue, or campaign the San Francisco Labor Council pursues has multiple labor and community partners.

Thank you Grace Martinez from ACCE for arranging the logistics of the meeting and Ady Barkin from CDP and Eddie Acosta of the AFL-CIO in DC for trekking to San Francisco. And great kudos for Bayview residents Ebony Esler, Pastor Yul Dorn and Kevin Stein from the Community Reinvestment Coalition for making the real and passionate appeals to make all of us realize what this economy really means to struggling working who are still being squeezed out of the American Dream.

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