William Spriggs

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William Spriggs has been Assistant Secretary for Policy at the Department of Labor since June 2009.[1]


Spriggs graduated with a B.A. from Williams College in 1977. He received his Ph.D. in Economics from the University of Wisconsin-Madison in 1984.[2] From 1988 until 2004, Spriggs served as director of the National Urban League Institute for Opportunity and Equality. Spriggs briefly worked at the Economic Policy Institute as a senior fellow from 2004 to 2005. Since 2005, Spriggs has chaired the Economics Department at Howard University. Previously, Spriggs taught at Norfolk State University and North Carolina A & T State University.[3] He currently serves as vice-chairman of the board of the Congressional Black Caucus Political Education and Leadership Institute and serves as chairman of both the Independent Health Care Trust for UAW Retirees of Ford Motor Company and the UAW Retirees of the Dana Corporation Health and Welfare Trust.[4]

Spriggs advocates for a large increase in the minimum wage. Specifically, Spriggs advocated “increasing the minimum wage so that it regains the value that it had in the late 1960s and then indexing the minimum wage so that it rises as prices rise would provide a safety net for those workers who do not have bargaining power with their employers.” He also wrote “In 2006 it [the minimum wage] was just $5.15, two-thirds of its real value in 1969; to match the 1969 real value, the minimum wage would need to be increased by $2.56,” which would have brought the federal minimum wage to $7.71.[5] Using the minimum wage in 1969 (which was $1.60) as the standard, the current minimum wage should be over $9 an hour according to Spriggs.[6]

Spriggs also supports the Employee Free Choice Act, which would ease the unionization of employees.[7]

Spriggs appears to support eliminating the cap on earnings subject to Federal Insurance Contributions Act taxes. In 2005, after stating that the wealthy “have been taxed [for FICA] at a much lower effective rate,” he wrote, “Medicare, which is funded similarly, does not have a cap on taxable earnings.”[8]

Spriggs does not believe that H-1B visas are necessary. “The fact that companies are still using H-1B visas and are about to use up their limit, despite all the reports we have about the big downturn in that industry [technology]and the many people who are being laid off , underscores the point that . . . these visas aren't really needed.”[9]

Spriggs frequently speaks about race and discrimination. “In the United States, everything is racial. The reason that racist policies have continued to exist is that racism involves an unexamined set of assumptions.”[10]

"Overall, as jobs are lost, new jobs are not being generated. It’s like an extreme game of musical chairs, said Bill Spriggs, executive director of the National Urban League Institute for Opportunity and Equality, a Washington-based research institution that focuses on social and economic issues.

“Imagine there’s a keeper on the line of chairs,” he said. “The idea is that the rule of the line is that white folks get to sit down first. So, it’s really employer preference. There are enough employers that it slows down the job search for African-Americans. We have to do more interviews to land a job than white folks do, which means we’re unemployed for a longer period of time, which gets us the higher unemployment rate.”[11]

Speaking of unemployment in 2008, Spriggs said, "The big problem is that [industries are] not hiring. . . And the first set of folks that they’re not hiring, of course, is us [blacks]. . . . America is like a train and we’re the caboose. If you’re in the caboose, it means you’re going forward, but you’re still the last car."[12]

Spriggs notes that some do not view the world as he does. "When we talk of housing disparities, education problems ... many [immigrants] don't think that affects them," said William Spriggs, executive director of the National Urban League Institute for Opportunity and Equality. "Black politicians . . . haven't been able to get [immigrants] to buy into what white America is all about, about what white privilege is. Immigrants don't come here with that understanding. We have to change our language to let them know that these are their problems."[13]

In 2001, Spriggs said, “People are failing to think of their own personal experience to use as a base to talk about racism. That's a big part of the problem. If I ask most young black people what's the problem? They would say something like lack of skills and not discrimination. It's hard to stand up and say lots of us finished high school and college and got jobs but are still not where our white counterparts are in the workplace. To stand up and say this is my reality - defining the problem of discrimination is difficult."[14]


  1. ^ "The Leadership Team". U.S. Department of Labor. Retrieved 5 May 2011. 
  2. ^ http://www.whitehouse.gov/the_press_office/President-Obama-Announces-More-Key-Administration-Posts-4-21-09/
  3. ^ http://www.cbcinstitute.org/db/node/33
  4. ^ http://washlaborwire.com/2009/04/22/obama-announces-intended-nomination-of-william-e-spriggs-as-assistant-secretary-for-policy-department-of-labor/
  5. ^ http://laborcenter.berkeley.edu/blackworkers/mountaintop_report.pdf
  6. ^ http://data.bls.gov/cgi-bin/cpicalc.pl
  7. ^ http://www.epi.org/publications/entry/prominent_economists_call_for_passage_of_the_employee_free_choice_act
  8. ^ http://cache.zoominfo.com/CachedPage/?archive_id=0&page_id=1046907993&page_url=%2f%2fwww.uaw.org%2fsocsec%2fsocsec.cfm%3fssid%3d12&page_last_updated=3%2f17%2f2005+6%3a01%3a54+AM&firstName=William&lastName=Spriggs
  9. ^ http://cache.zoominfo.com/CachedPage/?archive_id=0&page_id=188149799&page_url=%2f%2fwww.insidedenver.com%2fdrmn%2ftechnology%2farticle%2f0%2c1299%2cDRMN_49_798048%2c00.html&page_last_updated=8%2f13%2f2001+4%3a27%3a00+AM&firstName=William&lastName=Spriggs
  10. ^ http://www.ncoff.gse.upenn.edu/roundtable/incarcerated-rt.pdf
  11. ^ http://cache.zoominfo.com/CachedPage/?archive_id=0&page_id=388026805&page_url=%2f%2fwww.mississippilink.com%2fpv%2fpageview.pl%3fsection%3dhotstories%26newsfile%3dn200301304.txt&page_last_updated=1%2f31%2f2003+1%3a58%3a51+PM&firstName=William&lastName=Spriggs
  12. ^ http://www.communityjournal.net/blackvoterswhatarepresidentialcandidatesnotsaying6_11_08.html
  13. ^ http://cache.zoominfo.com/CachedPage/?archive_id=0&page_id=432729497&page_url=%2f%2fwww.washtimes.com%2fnational%2f20030509-94462182.htm&page_last_updated=5%2f10%2f2003+4%3a08%3a45+AM&firstName=William&lastName=Spriggs
  14. ^ http://www.inmotionmagazine.com/ponder.html