Teaching Assistants’ Association | 520 University Avenue, Suite 220, Madison, WI 53703 | taa-madison.org
Dear Ms. Weingarten,
On January 20, 2021, Joseph R. Biden Jr. will be inaugurated as the 46th president of the United States. President-Elect Biden has the monumental task of restoring a functional government following four years of incompetence under Donald Trump. The outgoing administration was disastrous to workers, headed by current Secretary of Labor and anti-worker lawyer Gene Scalia. Biden’s nomination for our next Secretary of Labor comes at an urgent moment that requires principled commitments to workers and labor unions. For these reasons and more, the TAA Executive Board (AFT Local #3220) urges you to support Dr. William Spriggs—chief economist of the AFL-CIO and professor of economics at Howard University, as well as former co-president of the UW–Madison TAA—for Secretary of Labor.
Dr. Spriggs will offer a bold vision for the nation’s labor policy. Dr. Spriggs has publicly called for continued stimulus payments to working Americans during the COVID-19 pandemic (1). He is outspoken about the racial inequalities in modern economic theory (2) and would be America’s first Black Secretary of Labor. COVID-19 has disparately impacted the lives and welfare of Black Americans, and whoever leads the restoration of worker’s rights should be an explicit advocate for racial and economic justice.
We know you currently support Marty Walsh, current mayor of Boston, for the position of Secretary of Labor. You have cited Walsh’s experience as former head of Boston’s Building and Construction Trades Council and his “close relationship” with Biden (3). At the same time, Walsh has been criticized for reaching deals with majority-male unions but not teachers, a profession that is overwhelmingly female (4). All workers, but particularly women and particularly Black and brown women, deserve a Secretary of Labor who will fight for them in the halls of power.
Dr. Spriggs’ union bona fides are clear. Dr. Spriggs served as co-president of TAA in 1980-81 while earning his Ph.D. at UW–Madison (5). In his current role as chief economist of the AFL-CIO, Dr. Spriggs has lobbied for a raised federal minimum wage, arguing on behalf of the AFL-CIO by highlighting the connection between the lack of labor protections of the minimum wage and racial disparities (6).
The TAA Executive Board believes that the AFT should support a bold choice for Secretary of Labor. We urge you to publicly endorse Dr. William Spriggs for the position.
The TAA Executive Board (AFT Local #3220)
(1) Bloomberg, “No Stimulus by Jan. Would Be Catastrophe: AFL-CIO’s Spriggs”
(2) Spriggs, “Is now a teachable moment for economists?”
(3) Bloomberg, “Boston Mayor Has Major Union Backing in Race to Be Labor Chief”
(4) Boston Globe, “For ex-union official turned mayor, priorities have shifted”
(6) Spriggs, “The Recurring Struggle of the Minimum Wage”