content top

Economic Policy Institute

Grantee:        Economic Policy Institute
Ranking:       11th highest grantee, 2005 — 2009
Received:     $6,435,000
Type:             Think Tank
Issue:             Media, Economic Justice, Immigration

About:  Founded in 1986, the Economic Policy Institute makes the following assertion:

The Economic Policy Institute (EPI), a non-profit, non-partisan think tank, was created in 1986 to broaden discussions about economic policy to include the needs of low- and middle-income workers . . . EPI was the first – and remains the premier – think tank to focus on the economic condition of low- and middle-income Americans and their families.1

In reality, entire industries of sociologists have studied poverty and the economic conditions of low-income workers for more than 150 years.  The Urban Institute, founded in 1968, fits this mandate, as does the Committee for Economic Development, founded in 1942, not to mention the thousands, of government and university-based research entities.  The economic condition of low and middle-income families is not a new concern.

The EPI may be more accurately named the labor unions’ first think tank.  The leaders of almost all of America’s most powerful labor unions appear on their board, including the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, American Federation of Teachers, Communication Workers of America, International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers, Service Employees International Union, United Auto Workers, United Food and Commercial Workers, United Steelworkers of America, and AFL-CIO president Richard Trumka.

Additionally, though EPI’s areas of research span the usual economic and social issues, senior staff members are specialists in labor policy.  They include EPI president Lawrence Mishel, who has long been linked to the Democratic Socialists of America,2 and Ross Eisenbrey.

EPI stresses its role in “shaping public policy,” an indication of the types of solutions they seek:

EPI shapes public policy on the federal and state level through compelling research and innovative ideas. We are recognized as national leaders on breakthrough liberal economic policies. EPI Research Associate and Yale university professor Jacob Hacker developed the concept of the public option—the idea that the government would provide health insurance and compete with private insurers to assure robust competition. EPI’s analysis has also shaped the way the economy is viewed.  For instance, EPI researchers were the first ones to profile the emerging gap between growing productivity and the wages and compensation of typical workers. An EPI economist was the first to compute the ratio of unemployed workers to job openings—the job-seekers to job-openings ratio—a commonsense way to help the public understand the difficulty of finding a job.3

Between 2005 and 2009, EPI received 53% of their funding from foundations and 29% from labor unions.  EPI produces the State of Working America Index and estimates that their experts or research are cited more than 20,000 times per year in the media.

EPI founders include Jeff Faux, EPI’s first president; economist Barry Bluestone of Northeastern University; Robert Kuttner, columnist for Business Week and Newsweek and editor of The American Prospect; Ray Marshall, former U.S. Secretary of Labor and professor at the LBJ School of Public Affairs, University of Texas-Austin; Gerald McEntee of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees; Robert Reich, former U.S. Secretary of Labor and Professor at UC Berkeley, and economist Lester Thurow of the MIT Sloan School of Management.

Several leading academic institutions are also represented, including Northeastern University , The New School for Social Research, Yale, Brandeis, Bennett College, New York University , University of Texas, Austin , University of Southern California and the University of California, Berkeley.

Important social organizations represented include the National Partnership for Women and Families and the Saul Alinsky founded Industrial Areas Foundation.

Another important board member is Dr. Robert Johnson, who has served as a managing director of Soros Fund management, and as Chief Economist for the Senate Banking and Budget Committees.

The Economic Policy Institute has contributed two recent board members to the Obama Administration: Rebecca Blank of the University of Michigan was confirmed as Under Secretary for Economic Affairs in the Department of Commerce in May 2009.  William Spriggs of Howard University  was appointed Assistant Secretary for the Policy/Senior Advisor in the Department of Labor in June 2009.

Mission Statement: The Economic Policy Institute (EPI), a non-profit, non-partisan think tank, was created in 1986 to broaden discussions about economic policy to include the needs of low- and middle-income workers. EPI believes every working person deserves a good job with fair pay, affordable health care, and retirement security.  To achieve this goal, EPI conducts research and analysis on the economic status of working America.  EPI proposes public policies that protect and improve the economic conditions of low- and middle-income workers and assesses policies with respect to how they affect those workers.

Soros Funding:  OSI funds general support and the coalition-building Economic Analysis and Research Network program.


  • Lawrence Mishel, President
  • Ross Eisenbrey, Vice President
  • Jody Franklin, Director of Communications
  • John Irons, Research and Policy Director
  • Arlene Williams, Director of Development and Strategic Planning
  • Douglas Hall, Director of the Economic Analysis and Research Network (EARN)
  • Christian Dorsey, Director of External and Government Affairs

Board of Directors:

Barry Bluestone Northeastern University Director for the Center for Urban and Regional Policy at Northeastern University in Boston; Founding Director of U.Mass.-Boston’s Ph.D. Program in Public Policy.

R. Thomas Buffenbarger International Association of Machinists & Allied Workers (IAMAW) President for the International Association of Machinists.

Larry Cohen Communications Workers of America (CWA) Serving as the fourth President in the history of the Communications Workers of America’s union, Mr. Cohen has implemented and spearheaded movements that have lead to help workers gain union representation in various sectors. He has also expanded the union’s membership mobilization program to create a network of union stewards.

Ernesto J. Cortes, Jr. Industrial Areas Foundation Member for the National Executive Team of The Industrial Areas Foundations, recipient of the 4th Annual Heinz Award for his work in Public Policy to make government more responsive by increasing citizen participation in the political process at the community level; worked with Cesar Chavez and the farm worker’s movement.

Phaedra Ellis-Lamkins Green for All Chief executive officer of Green for All; leader in California’s labor movement, heading both the South Bay AFL-CIO Labor Council and Working Partnerships USA; Board Member, Leadership Council of California Forward, and Tipping Point Community Board; chair and co-founder of Partnership for Working Families.

Jeff Faux Economic Policy Institute Founder of EPI; worked as an economist for the Departments of State and Labor and Commerce.

Leo W. Gerard United Steelworkers of America (USWA) President for the United Steelworkers of America; increased membership by sixty percent. The union has strengthened workers’ bargaining leverage by forging strategic alliances with unions worldwide.

Teresa Ghilarducci The New School for Social Research  Bernard and Irene Schwartz Chair of Economic Policy Analysis at the New School for Social Research; her project, “Beyond the 401(k): Guaranteeing Retirement Security,” is funded by the Rockefeller Foundation; trustee for two Retiree Health Care Trusts: one for the UAW retirees at GM, Ford, and Chrysler and the other for Steelworker retirees at Goodyear; served on Governor Schwarzenegger’s Public Employee Post-Employment Benefits Commission; trustee for the Public Employee Retirement Fund in Indiana from 1997—2002; President Clinton appointed her twice to serve on the PBGC’s Advisory Board (1996- 2001); Wurf fellow at the Labor and Worklife Program at Harvard Law School.

Jacob Hacker Yale University Stanley B. Resor Professor of Political Science at Yale University; fellow at the Institution for Social and Policy Studies; fellow at the New America Foundation; author of a 2007 proposal for universal health care, Health Care for America, that became a template for several presidential candidates’ plans for health care reform.

Joseph T. Hansen United Food and Commercial Workers  International president of United Food and Commercial Workers International Union.

Mary Kay Henry Service Employees International Union President of Service Employees International Union; member of the executive board of Families USA.

Alexis Herman New Ventures  First African American to become the secretary of labor, serving during President Bill Clinton’s second term; 1989 Democratic National Committee chief of staff; 1992 CEO of the Democratic National Convention; assistant to the president and director of the White House Public Liaison Office in 1993.

Robert Johnson Serves on the Boards of the Democracy Alliance, The Institute for Americas Future, and the Soros-funded Brennan Center for Justice; served as a managing director of Soros Fund Management; former Chief Economist for the Senate Banking and Budget Committees.

Bob King United Auto Workers  Current president and a previous vice president of United Auto Workers, played a major role in negotiating both UAW’s national agreement with Ford in 2007 as well as the 2009 modifications to that agreement.

Robert Kuttner The American Prospect  Co-founder and co-editor of The American Prospect; co-founder of the Economic Policy Institute; 1996 winner of the Paul Hoffman Award for Human Development of the United Nations, for his work on the relationship of economic efficiency to social equality.

Lisa M. Lynch Brandeis University Dean and Maurice B. Hexter Professor of Social and Economic Policy at the Heller School for Social Policy and Management at Brandeis University; served as chief economist at the U.S. Department of Labor from 1995 to 1997.

Julianne Malveaux Bennett College President of Bennett College; founder of Last Word Productions. She is an outspoken activist for issues surrounding race, culture, gender, and their economic impacts.

Ray Marshall University of Texas, Austin  Served for President Carter as U.S. Secretary of Labor and President Clinton as a member of the National Skills Standard Board and the Advisory Commission on Labor Development; former President for the International Labor Rights Fund.

Gerald W. McEntee American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees President for the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME); co-founder of the Economic Policy Institute; served on the Presidential Advisory Commission on Quality and Consumer Protection in the Health Care Industry during the Clinton presidency.

Lawrence Mishel Economic Policy Institute  Current President.

Debra Ness National Partnership for Women and Families  President of the National Partnership for Women & Families.

Pedro Noguera New York University Professor in the Steinhardt School of Culture, Education, and Human Development at New York University; Executive Director of the Metropolitan Center for Urban Education; co-Director of the Institute for the study of Globalization and Education in Metropolitan Settings.

Jules O. Pagano American Income Life  Vice President and Executive Director on the Labor Advisory Board of the American Income Life Insurance company; served on the Commission of Professors of Adult Education.

Manuel Pastor University of Southern California  Professor of Geography and American Studies & Ethnicity at the University of Southern California; directs the Program for Environmental and Regional Equity (PERE); member of the Commission on Regions appointed by California’s Speaker of the State Assembly.

Bernard Rapoport Bernard & Audre Rapoport Foundation  Founder and Former President, Chairman and CEO of American Income Life Insurance Company.

Robert B. Reich University of California, Berkeley Co-founding editor of the magazine The American Prospect; served as the 22nd U.S. Secretary of Labor; implemented the Family and Medical Leave Act, led a national fight against sweatshops in the U.S. and illegal child labor worldwide.

Richard L. Trumka AFL-CIO  Elected President of the AFL-CIO in September 2009; 1982 President of the United Mine Workers.

Randi Weingarten American Federation of Teachers  President of the 1.4-million-member American Federation of Teachers, AFL-CIO, which represents teachers; paraprofessionals and school-related personnel; higher education faculty and staff; nurses and other healthcare professionals; local, state and federal employees; and early childhood educators.




Print Friendly, PDF & Email