WASHINGTON, May 28 – Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), along with Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.), Sens. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), Maggie Hassan (D-N.H.), Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.) introduced two pieces of legislation to help workers around the country form employee-owned businesses.
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), Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) and Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) and was introduced in the House by Rep. Mark Pocan (D-Wis.).
The second bill 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.
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 over 7,000 employee-owned businesses which employ roughly 10 million people.
“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,” Sen. 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 two bills would help give more hardworking New Yorkers an ownership stake in the companies where they work,” said Sen. 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.”
“Expanding worker ownership opportunities is one way in which we can support employees seeking to invest in their own futures. We have seen first-hand in Vermont how Employee Stock Ownership Plans benefit workers, and in turn benefit our communities. Incentivizing employee ownership plans is one way we can not only create but sustain good paying jobs and spur economic growth,” Sen. Leahy said.
“I’m proud to be the House sponsor of this legislation. These bills will protect workers while investing in American jobs and the American economy,” said Rep. DeFazio. “A U.S. Employee Ownership Bank would provide assistance to workers while allowing them to directly participate in the company’s decision-making processes. These bills will keep jobs here in the U.S. and provide a much-needed boost for local businesses.”
“Studies have shown that employee-owned companies have more productive workers, better working conditions, and greater shareholder returns,” Sen. 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,” Sen. Warren said.
David Fitz-Gerald, the former chair of the ESOP Association and 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.”
Read the WORK Act bill text here.
Read the U.S. Employee Ownership Bank bill text here.