U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont has introduced two pieces of legislation that could give an enormous boost to employee ownership in this country.
The first bill, the Worker Ownership, Readiness and Knowledge (WORK) Act, would promote employee ownership and employee participation in company decision-making. Specifically, this bill would authorize the Department of Labor to provide education and outreach, training, grants, and technical support for local and state programs dedicated to the promotion of employee ownership and participation. According to Sanders’ office, “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.”
The second bill, the U.S. Employee Ownership Bank Act, would provide loans and loan guarantees to employees to purchase a business through an Employee Stock Ownership Plan (ESOP) or a worker-owned cooperative. It is intended to increase and retain jobs in the U.S. and strengthen the U.S. economy.
Both measures are cosponsored by Sens. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio), Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) and Daniel Akaka (D-Hawaii.).
Sanders told a news conference at his office in Burlington on July 23 that “I am very proud that Vermont is leading the way on expanding employee ownership in this country. 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.” Sanders was joined at the news conference by leaders of three Vermont employee-owned companies. Paul Millman, co-founder and CEO of Chroma Technology in Bellows Falls, Cindy Turcot, the Chief Operating Officer of Gardener’s Supply Company in Burlington and Deb Harris, a founding member of PT 360 in Williston.
Sanders cited studies showing 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.