Thea Lee was the president of the Economic Policy Institute from 2017 to 2021. Lee has a longstanding relationship with EPI, having begun her career here as an international trade economist in the 1990s. Lee came to EPI from the AFL-CIO, a voluntary federation of 56 national and international labor unions that represent 12.5 million working men and women, where she served as deputy chief of staff. At the AFL-CIO, she developed a track record of conducting rigorous economic research, overseeing an ambitious policy agenda, and helping steer a large organization through change.
Lee has spent her career advocating on behalf of working families in national policy debates on issues such as wage inequality, workers’ rights, and fair trade. She is co-author of The Field Guide to the Global Economy, published by The New Press, and has authored numerous publications on the North American Free Trade Agreement, the impact of international trade on U.S. wage inequality, and the domestic steel and textile industries.
Lee has been a voice for workers in testimony before congressional committees and in television and radio appearances—including on PBS NewsHour, Good Morning America, NPR’s All Things Considered and Marketplace, Fox Business, and the PBS documentary Commanding Heights. She has also 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, among others. She currently serves on the U.S.-China Economic and Security Review Commission, to which she was appointed by Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer, as well as the boards of the Congressional Progressive Caucus Center, the Center for International Policy, the Coalition for Human Needs, and the Progressive Talent Pipeline advisory council. She also serves on the national advisory board of the Institute for Women’s Policy Research and the external advisory board of the Roosevelt Project at the MIT Center for Energy and Environmental Policy Research.
Lee holds a master’s degree in economics from the University of Michigan at Ann Arbor and a bachelor’s degree in economics from Smith College. Lee lives in Washington, D.C., with her husband and two dogs. She has one daughter, who teaches middle school in Brooklyn. She likes to cook, read, and travel.