Legislative Package Introduced to Encourage Employee-Owned Companies

WASHINGTON, May 11 – Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), along with Sens. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.) and Maggie Hassan (D-N.H.), introduced two pieces of legislation Thursday to help workers around the country form employee-owned businesses.

Broad-based employee ownership has been proven to increase employment, productivity, sales and wages in the United States. Employee ownership boosts company productivity by 4 percent, shareholder returns by 2 percent and profits by 14 percent, according to a Rutgers University study.

Nationally, there are already nearly 10,000 employee-owned businesses which employ roughly 10 million people.

The WORK Act – modeled on the success of the Vermont Employee Ownership Center – would provide more than $45 million in funding to states to establish and expand employee ownership centers, which provide training and technical support for programs promoting employee ownership. The bill is also co-sponsored by Sens. Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio) and Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) and was introduced in the House by Rep. Jared Polis (D-Colo.).

The second bill introduced today would create a U.S. Employee Ownership Bank to provide $500 million in low-interest rate loans and other financial assistance to help workers purchase businesses through an employee stock ownership plan or a worker-owned cooperative. Rep. Peter DeFazio (D-Ore.) introduced a companion bill in the House.

“By expanding employee ownership and participation, we can create stronger companies in Vermont and throughout this country, prevent job losses and improve working conditions for struggling employees,” Sanders said. “Simply put, when employees have an ownership stake in their company, they will not ship their own jobs to China to increase their profits, they will be more productive, and they will earn a better living.”

“These are constructive steps to strengthen and expand worker-ownership opportunities and Employee Stock Ownership Plans (ESOPs). In Vermont, we know that ESOPs work, and we’ve seen first-hand the many advantages that ESOP companies generate in our state. Growth and good-paying jobs in these high-performing companies have benefitted employee owners, their companies, and our communities,” Leahy said.

“These two bills would help give more hardworking New Yorkers an ownership stake in the companies where they work,” said Gillibrand. “We need to start rewarding work again in this country, and employee ownership is a good way to help make that happen. I am proud to support these bills, and I will continue doing everything I can in the Senate to fight for more good-paying jobs that actually reward our workers.”

“Studies have shown that employee-owned companies have more productive workers, better working conditions, and greater shareholder returns," Hassan said. "New Hampshire has innovative businesses that are setting a great example of the benefits of employee-owned companies. I am proud to support these two bills that will help encourage these efforts, boost economic growth, and expand opportunity for hard-working Granite Staters."

“Since about 1980, our economy has grown, but the top 10 percent of Americans have taken all the gains, leaving nothing for anyone else. That’s not a level playing field—it’s a rigged system. Giving workers a seat at the table and their fair share of the profits they help produce is one way to even up the playing field and give hardworking Americans a chance to create an economy that works for everyone,” Warren said.

David Fitz-Gerald, who serves as the chair of the ESOP Association and is the chief financial officer of Carris Reels, a manufacturing company based in Rutland, Vermont, which is 100 percent employee-owned, said that increasing employee ownership “creates and maintains more productive companies that sustains American jobs at a higher rate than do conventionally owned companies.”