BURLINGTON, Vt., July 23 - U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) today introduced legislation that would expand employee ownership of businesses in Vermont and throughout the country.
"I am very proud that Vermont is leading the way on expanding employee ownership in this country," Sanders told a news conference at his Senate office in Burlington. "Simply put, when employees have an ownership stake in their company, they will not ship their own jobs to China, they will be more productive, and they will earn a better living."
Under one bill in Sanders' package, the U.S. Department of Labor would provide funding to states to establish and expand employee ownership centers. These centers would provide training and technical support for programs promoting employee ownership and participation throughout the country. This legislation is modeled on the success of the Vermont Employee Ownership Center which has done an excellent job in educating workers, retiring business owners, and others about the benefits of worker ownership.
A second bill would create a U.S. Employee Ownership Bank to provide loans to help workers purchase businesses through an employee stock ownership plan or a worker-owned cooperative.
Both measures are cosponsored by Sens. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio), Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) and Daniel Akaka (D-Hawaii.).
Sanders was joined at the news conference by Paul Millman, co-founder and CEO of Chroma Technology in Bellows Falls, Vt.; Cindy Turcot, the chief operating officer of Gardener's Supply in Burlington; and Deb Harris of PT 360 in Williston, Vt. They represent the more than 30 worker-owned businesses in Vermont and about a half a dozen worker cooperatives. Nationally, there are more than 10,000 employee owned businesses throughout the country with about 10 million employees.
Studies show that employee ownership increases employment, productivity, sales, and wages in the United States. "When employees own their own companies, when they work for themselves, when they are involved in the decision-making that impacts their jobs, workers become more motivated, absenteeism goes down, worker productivity goes up, and people stay on the job for a longer period of time," Sanders said.
Unfortunately, the federal government has failed to commit the resources needed to allow employee ownership to realize its true potential. "By expanding employee ownership and participation, we can create stronger companies in Vermont and throughout this country, prevent job loss, and improve working conditions for struggling employees," Sanders said.