William (Bill) Spriggs passed away on June 6, 2023, at age 68. Bill was an energetic, kind, and giving person and a brilliant economist who made racial and social justice a priority focus of his scholarship, advocacy, and policy work. As tributes to Bill in the Washington Post, New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Fortune, and elsewhere have noted, his research and policy interests were broad. They included macroeconomics and the role of the Federal Reserve, minimum wages, workers’ rights and trade union issues, social insurance, climate change, trade policy, and more.
I met Bill early in his first stint at the Economic Policy Institute (EPI) sometime around 1990. I had recently joined the Howard University faculty as chairman of the Economics Department, and Bill had a project to study the impact of an increase in the minimum wage on a local labor market. Bill’s innovative approach, collecting original data rather than relying on secondary data to study an issue, was emblematic of his research and policy approach over his career.
From EPI, he went on to serve in a variety of positions, including as staff to the Joint Economic Committee, the Economics and Statistics Administration of the Department of Commerce, and as senior vice president of the National Urban League directing its Washington, D.C., office. Bill joined the Howard faculty as chair of the Economics Department in 2005. He subsequently took leave to serve as assistant secretary of labor for policy in the Obama administration. After rejoining the Howard faculty in 2012, Bill became the chief economist of the American Federation of Labor and Congress of Industrial Organizations (AFL-CIO) and served in both positions until his death.