Activists who are against a Federal Reserve interest-rate increase planned Tuesday to stage a protest outside the Federal Reserve Bank of Philadelphia. The demonstration was expected to target the bank’s new president, Patrick Harker, as part of the “Fed Up” campaign, a national coalition of families and community leaders calling on the Fed to adopt pro-worker policies.
The activists expected anywhere from 15 to 20 people, including workers, small-business owners and clergy, at the demonstration, aimed at pressuring Harker to take a tour of Philadelphia’s low-income neighborhoods, Politico reported. Although Harker this summer informally agreed to meet with the coalition, the Federal Reserve Bank of Philadelphia has backed out of that commitment, activists said.
— Derek K. Laney (@derekklaney) October 6, 2015
Kendra Brooks, a leader of Philadelphia’s Fed Up coalition, said she has been urging Harker to meet with more than just the heads of nonprofits and corporations, Politico reported. She tried to get a commitment from Harker at the Fed's symposium in Jackson Hole, Wyoming, in August, and posted video of their encounter on YouTube.
Raising the interest rate would have a tremendous impact on African-American workers, economists have said. Low rates have allowed the economy to inch closer to a full recovery and to full employment, which has benefited blacks more than others. However, blacks still have the widest unemployment rate gap to close with whites.
The African-American unemployment rate was 9.2 percent in September, more than double the 4.4 percent rate for whites. Black Americans make up about 13 percent of the country’s 318 million residents and have seen stagnant wages and declines in wealth, as the U.S. economy recovered from the recession of 2007-09, the worst economic downturn since the Great Depression.
“The Federal Reserve is the most important decision-maker when it comes to whether we’ll get to full employment in the next two to three years,” said Valerie Wilson, director of the Program on Race, Ethnicity and the Economy at the Economic Policy Center in Washington, D.C. Wilson released a report in March on the racial impacts of a federal interest-rate hike.
“The timing of the Fed’s decision to raise interest rates will influence how low the unemployment rate gets, how quickly wages grow, and how much African-Americans will share in our country’s prosperity,” Wilson said. “For the sake of American workers, the Fed should not raise interest rates until we are much closer to full recovery and full employment.”