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Banking sector, Blogs, Macroeconomic policies

Fed Up: The urgent need to broaden the circle in monetary policy-making

The Fed Up campaign reached new heights last month when 120 community leaders and organizers from around the country sat down with ten of the Federal Reserve’s Presidents and Governors for an unprecedented on-the-record conversation about monetary policy and Fed governance in Jackson Hole, Wyoming.

Workers and community leaders from mostly Black and Latino communities in all twelve of the Federal Reserve’s regional districts left their homes and families to travel to Jackson Hole to tell the Fed that the economy is still not working for their communities. They all belonged to the Fed Up campaign, a coalition of labor unions and community groups that came together two years ago to advocate for a more democratized Federal Reserve.

During the hour-long meeting, Fed Up leaders challenged the Federal Reserve on issues of racial and economic inequality and the lack of diversity amongst the Federal Reserve’s leadership. Community leaders called for an end to decades of the Federal Reserve prioritizing the interests of the wealthy over the needs of the American people.

Fed Up leaders demanded that the Federal Reserve become a fully public and representative institution in order to truly serve the broad interests of the American public and unveiled plans to launch a legislative campaign to reform the Fed into a People’s Fed. Currently, the Federal Reserve is owned by commercial banks, making it one of the only non-public central banks in the world. Fed Up argued that a representative and public Federal Reserve will prevent the interest of consumers, community organizations, and labor from being dismissed from the monetary policy conversation.

The Wall Street Journal’s headline noted the historic nature of the meeting: “At Unprecedented Meeting, Fed Officials Voice Support for Activists’ Issues. Central bankers offer reassurances on the economy, acknowledge shortcomings on diversity.” CNBC said that Fed Up’s work has reached “an extraordinary new level.” In a glowing profile of the campaign, the Washington Post said that Fed Up has become “a powerful vehicle for the liberal critique of the central bank.” Dozens of outlets from CNN International to the New York Times covered the event.

During the meeting, Fed officials acknowledged and agreed with many of Fed Up’s critiques. William Dudley, President of the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, told Action United’s Kendra Brooks that the Fed is doing a “pretty lousy” job on issues of diversity and inclusion. Fed Governor Lael Brainard promised MORE’s Derek Laney that Fed staff would seriously consider our slate of candidates for appointment to Class C seats on the Fed’s 12 regional Boards of Directors. And Minneapolis Federal Reserve Bank President Neel Kashkari promised Make the Road New York’s Maria Rubio that he would launch a major research initiative to investigate questions of racial and gender inequality in the economy.

The meeting was part of two days of programming and activities for members of the Fed Up coalition. We held an array workshops on topics relating to the Federal Reserve, including the impact that poverty has on mental health, how racial justice struggles can incorporate demands for both police reform and full employment, and the development of a strategy to create a fully public People’s Fed by convincing Congress to reform the Federal Reserve Act in 2017.

Ruben Lucio is field manager of the Fed Up campaign, an initiative of the Center for Popular Democracy.

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