Person

Thea Lee

Nationality:

American

Occupation:

Deputy Undersecretary for International Labor Affairs

Residence:

Washington, DC

Thea Lee is a labor union official and Democratic political operative who has worked as the former deputy chief of staff at the American Federation of Labor-Congress of Industrial Organizations (AFL-CIO), former president of the labor-union-aligned Economic Policy Institute (EPI). She is the Deputy Undersecretary for International Labor Affairs for the Biden Administration. [1]

Lee has sat on the boards of directors for multiple organizations including the Congressional Progressive Caucus Center, the Center for International Policy, and the Coalition for Human Needs. [2]

Education

Lee received a Bachelor’s degree in economics from Smith College where she studied from 1976 until 1980 and attended the University of Michigan from 1981 to 1988 to complete her Master’s degree. [3]

Career

Thea Lee began her career in 1991 as an “international economist” for the Economic Policy Institute (EPI), a research institution funded, chaired, and promoted by labor unions and labor union officials that also has close ties to current and former Democratic Party officeholders. Lee left EPI in March 1996, six years after she joined. [4]

After leaving the Economic Policy Institute, Lee started working as the chief international economist at the American Federation of Labor-Congress of Industrial Organizations (AFL-CIO), the largest federation of labor unions in the United States which under its controversial current president Richard Trumka has aligned itself closely with the Democratic Party and the organizational left. [5] Thea Lee then became the AFL-CIO’s director, before assuming her final position as the deputy chief of staff. Lee worked for the AFL-CIO for 20 years before leaving in 2017. [6][7]

During her time working at the AFL-CIO, Lee received a gross salary of over $100,000 a year between 2005 and 2017. Her lowest salary was $106,144 in 2005, which increased every year until she earned a salary of $176,789 in 2017. Her lowest and last salary was $42,696 in 2018 after she left the AFL-CIO. [8]

Upon leaving the AFL-CIO, Lee worked briefly as a self-employed economist before returning to the Economic Policy Institute in 2018 when she replaced Lawrence Mishel as president. She stayed at EPI until May 2021 when she resigned from her position after accepting the position of Deputy Undersecretary for International Affairs for the Biden Administration, where she will lead the section that focuses on investigating child trafficking, labor rights, and forced labor. [9][10]

Lee was also on the U.S.-China Economic and Security Review Commission. She was appointed to the position by Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer for a two-year term which ended on December 31, 2020. [11] In addition, she has served on the State Department Advisory Committee on International Economic Policy, the Export-Import Bank Advisory Committee, and the Board of Directors of the National Bureau of Economic Research. [12]

Lee, alongside AFL-CIO president Richard Trumka, served on the manufacturing council early in the the Trump Administration. Members of the council included CEOs of prominent companies like Elon Musk of Tesla, Michael Dell of Dell Technologies, and Ken Frazier of pharmaceutical company Merck & Co. Lee also served on advisory committees for the Clinton, Bush, and Obama administrations. [13]

Board Memberships

She is a board member of the National Women’s Law Center which promotes left-of-center social policy through litigation and policy initiatives. [14]

Lee also serves on the board of directors for the advocacy and think-tank arm of the Congressional Progressive Caucus, the Congressional Progressive Caucus Center, the Center for International Policy, the Coalition for Human Needs, and the Progressive Talent Pipeline advisory council. She is on the external advisory board of the Roosevelt Project at the MIT Center for Energy and Environmental Policy Research and an advisory board member for the Institute for Women’s Policy Research. [15]

References

  1. “Thea Lee – Profile,” LinkedIn, accessed May 22, 2021, https://www.linkedin.com/in/thea-lee-04019a9/ . ^
  2. Thea M. Lee et al., “Thea M. Lee,” Economic Policy Institute, accessed May 22, 2021, https://www.epi.org/people/thea-m-lee/. ^
  3. “Thea Lee – Profile,” LinkedIn, accessed May 22, 2021, https://www.linkedin.com/in/thea-lee-04019a9/ . ^
  4. “Thea Lee – Profile,” LinkedIn, accessed May 22, 2021, https://www.linkedin.com/in/thea-lee-04019a9/ . ^
  5. Kenneth Weinstein, “From Meany to Sweeney: Labor’s Leftward Tilt,” The Heritage Foundation, accessed May 22, 2021, https://www.heritage.org/jobs-and-labor/report/meany-sweeney-labors-leftward-tilt-0. ^
  6. “Thea Lee – Profile,” LinkedIn, accessed May 22, 2021, https://www.linkedin.com/in/thea-lee-04019a9/ . ^
  7. “Thea Mei Lee,” Thea Mei Lee | U.S.- CHINA | ECONOMIC and SECURITY REVIEW COMMISSION, accessed May 22, 2021, https://www.uscc.gov/commission-members/thea-mei-lee. ^
  8. “AFL-CIO: Thea Lee,” Union Facts, accessed May 22, 2021, https://www.unionfacts.com/employee/AFL-CIO/THEA/LEE. ^
  9. “A Farewell from EPI’s President,” Economic Policy Institute, accessed May 22, 2021, https://www.epi.org/blog/a-farewell-from-epis-president/. ^
  10. Sebastian Tong, “Left-Leaning Economist to Join U.S. Labor Department, WSJ Says,” BloombergQuint, May 10, 2021, https://www.bloombergquint.com/politics/thea-lee-will-be-named-to-u-s-labor-department-post-wsj-says. ^
  11. “Thea Mei Lee,” Thea Mei Lee | U.S.- CHINA | ECONOMIC and SECURITY REVIEW COMMISSION, accessed May 22, 2021, https://www.uscc.gov/commission-members/thea-mei-lee. ^
  12. Thea M. Lee et al., “Thea M. Lee,” Economic Policy Institute, accessed May 22, 2021, https://www.epi.org/people/thea-m-lee/. ^
  13. Person, “Why I Served on Trump’s Manufacturing Council – and Why I Left,” Cosmopolitan (Cosmopolitan, October 11, 2017), https://www.cosmopolitan.com/politics/a12036791/thea-lee-why-i-quit-trumps-manufacturing-council/. ^
  14. “Thea Lee – Profile,” LinkedIn, accessed May 22, 2021, https://www.linkedin.com/in/thea-lee-04019a9/ . ^
  15. Thea M. Lee et al., “Thea M. Lee,” Economic Policy Institute, accessed May 22, 2021, https://www.epi.org/people/thea-m-lee/. ^
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