Friday, May 13, 2016

John Conyers & Elizabeth Warren Lead More Than 125 Members of Congress in Calling for Diversity at Federal Reserve Bank

Letter Expresses Concern That Lack of Representation Could Harm Job Creation in Communities of Color

Washington, D.C. - Today, Congressman John Conyers, Jr. (MI-13), the Dean of the Congress and Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) sent a letter signed by 127 Members of the U.S. House and U.S. Senate, urging the Federal Reserve to prioritize diversity in its leadership and to focus its attention on the high rates of unemployment in communities of color across the country.

Addressed to Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen, the letter calls attention to the lack of diversity across the Federal Reserve system. The letter is the latest effort by Rep. Conyers and his Full Employment Caucus to focus attention on the impact of the Federal Reserve’s policies on communities of color. Last September, Rep. Conyers and the Full Employment Caucus introduced H.R. 3541, the Full Employment Federal Reserve Act, which instructs the Federal Reserve to target a 4 percent unemployment rate nationally. 

Dean of the U.S. House
of Representatives
John Conyers, Jr.
“Far too often, the voices of minorities are silenced because they aren’t sitting at the table,” said Congressman Conyers. “The Federal Reserve needs leadership that models the diversity that exists in this Nation. Detroit and cities across the country with high minority populations have some of the highest unemployment rates and will be harmed if the Federal Reserve does not consider our needs when they make key policy decisions. Increasing diversity at the Federal Reserve will help ensure that the needs of people of color, women, labor, and consumers are part of the crucial conversations at our nation’s central bank.”

Currently, 11 of the 12 regional Federal Reserve Bank presidents are white and 10 of the 12 are men. Not a single regional Bank president is African American or Latino and no African-American has ever served as president of a regional Bank in the history of the Federal Reserve System. This year, all voting members of the interest rate-setting Federal Open Market Committee (FOMC) are white.

recent study found that just 53 percent of Detroiters ages 16-64 are employed, well below the national average of 75 percent. When the Federal Reserve raises interest rates to slow inflation, it necessarily slows job creation and wage growth, which some argue is problematic for communities of color that have not yet fully received the benefits of the economic recovery.

In 2010, Federal Reserve meeting minutes show no discussion of the African-American unemployment rate, even as it reached 15.5 percent that year. In their letter, the Members wrote, “When the voices of women, African-Americans, Latinos, and representatives of consumers and labor are excluded from key discussions, their interests are too often neglected.”

Noting the current African-American unemployment rate of 8.8 percent, which is more than double the rate for Whites, the Members continued, “By fostering genuine full employment, the Federal Reserve can help combat discrimination and dramatically reduce the disproportionate unemployment faced by minority populations…employment discrimination against women and minorities decreases as our economy approaches full employment. The data is unambiguous: even when comparing workers with the same levels of education, African-American workers face higher unemployment rates and are paid less than their white counterparts, women make less than their male counterparts, and women of color are particularly disadvantaged.”

The letter is signed by 116 Members of the U.S. House, including Members of the Congressional Full Employment Caucus, which Rep. Conyers founded and jointly chairs with Rep. Marcy Kaptur (D-OH) and Frederica Wilson (D-FL); as well as nearly every member of the Congressional Black Caucus and Congressional Hispanic Caucus. The letter is also signed by 11 U.S. Senators.
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