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News from EPI Naomi Walker named vice president of the Economic Policy Institute

Today, Naomi Walker was named the Economic Policy Institute’s vice president. Walker joined EPI in 2018 as director of EPI’s Economic Analysis and Research Network (EARN), a national network of almost 60 state-level policy research and advocacy organizations.

During her tenure at EARN, she significantly increased the size and scope of the network’s capacity to engage in worker, racial, and gender justice campaigns. Under Walker’s leadership, EARN launched two new regional initiatives in the South and Midwest that bring together state and local research and policy organizations with people of color-led grassroots partners to co-lead economic justice initiatives and strengthen the progressive economic justice infrastructure at the state and local levels. In addition, she led the creation of a new Worker Power initiative focused on expanding the ability of working people to achieve justice through organizing, collective bargaining, and state and local policies that ensure all workers have the freedom to join together in a union and gain a voice on the job.

In her new role as vice president, she will continue to provide strategic guidance to EPI’s state and local research and policy work.

Appointing Walker as vice president was one of the first actions economist Heidi Shierholz took as EPI’s new president. This is the first time two women are leading EPI since its founding 35 years ago, and the first time the vice president has been a Black woman.

“I am thrilled to serve EPI in a new role as vice president,” said Walker. “Throughout my career I’ve worked alongside state and local policy advocates to create an economy that works for everyone, and I know that working people across the country are ready for transformative economic change. As EPI’s vice president, I will deepen partnerships with unions, grassroots partners, and other allies to build power for working families and advance policy reforms at the local, state, and national levels that center economic justice, racial justice, and gender equity.”

Before joining EPI, Walker served as assistant to the president at the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME), where she coordinated AFSCME’s partnerships with allies and coalitions to build power for working families.

Prior to AFSCME, Walker served as director of state government relations and deputy director of the government affairs department for the AFL-CIO. There, she coordinated state issue campaigns on a variety of issues, including fighting so-called “right-to-work” legislation and attacks on working families and providing affordable health care for working families. Walker also served as assistant director of the AFL-CIO politics and field department, leading labor’s field campaign for the 2006 election cycle.

“With decades of experience in the labor movement and in state and local campaigns, Naomi knows how to build worker power to win lasting change—and her leadership and expertise couldn’t come at a more important time for workers,” said Shierholz. “Now is the time to pass reforms that support collective bargaining, improve wages, benefits, and working conditions, and reduce racial and gender inequities. Naomi will help get us there.”

Walker will become EPI’s vice president on October 18, 2021. EPI’s current vice president, John Schmitt, will remain at EPI as a senior economist and senior adviser.