Senator Ron Johnson visits Sentry Equipment Corporation

Senator Ron Johnson (R-WI) visited Sentry Equipment Corporation, Oconomowoc, WI, on October 12, 2015.  During his visit Senator Johnson met with the Sentry Equipment Corporation management team, had a quick shop tour, and then addressed well over 100 employee owners.

Pictured left to right:  Brian Baker, President & CEO, Sentry Equipment Corporation and Wisconsin Senator Ron Johnson.
Pictured left to right: Brian Baker, President & CEO of Sentry Equipment Corporation and United States Senator for Wisconsin Ron Johnson.

 

 

Congressional Visits

While in DC for the Annual Conference, May 8 & 9, many Association members made visits to their Congressional offices to discuss the value of employee ownership. Some even met up with members of Congress at the airport. Lesson: never pass up the chance to talk ESOP! We’ll be sharing photos below. If you have photos of a Congressional visit, please send it to media AT esopassociation.org. We’ll try to include the information in an upcoming issue of the ESOP Report and on the Association’s Blog.

Thanks to our members for their work to promote ESOPs and employee ownership in America.

Members of the California/Western States Chapter visiting Capitol Hill during the Annual Conference.
Members of the California/Western States Chapter visiting Capitol Hill during the Annual Conference.
Members of the California/Western States Chapter visiting Capitol Hill during the Annual Conference.
Members of the California/Western States Chapter visiting Capitol Hill during the Annual Conference.
New South Chapter members visited the offices of Alabama Senators Jeff Sessions (R-AL) and Richard Shelby (R-AL) during the Annual Conference in Washington, DC. New South Chapter Government Relations Chair, Karan Christopher of McCord Communications, scheduled the appointments with the Senators’ staff members and other Chapter members joined her to share their ESOP story. The visits were successful and opened up the door for future Congressional visits to ESOP companies in the state of Alabama.   Left to right: Ed Ilano (Swerdlin & Company), Jodi Lamb (Big G Express), Andy Dickerson (McCord Communications), Karan Christopher (McCord Communications), Teresa Crosslin (Big G Express).
New South Chapter members visited the offices of Alabama Senators Jeff Sessions (R-AL) and Richard Shelby (R-AL) during the Annual Conference in Washington, DC. New South Chapter Government Relations Chair, Karan Christopher of McCord Communications, scheduled the appointments with the Senators’ staff members and other Chapter members joined her to share their ESOP story. The visits were successful and opened up the door for future Congressional visits to ESOP companies in the state of Alabama.
Left to right: Ed Ilano (Swerdlin & Company), Jodi Lamb (Big G Express), Andy Dickerson (McCord Communications), Karan Christopher (McCord Communications), Teresa Crosslin (Big G Express).
From left to right: Congressman Joe Courtney (D-CT), Congressman John B. Larson (D-CT), Steve Sabourin, GM of Carris Reels in Enfield, CT, and Congressman Richard E. Neal (D-MA). In an email from Steve Sabourin of Carris Reels:  “This was a great chance meeting at the airport after visiting Congressman Neal the day before.  Congressman Neal said he loved the way we do things.  I asked him what he meant.  Basically, he loved that employee owners were making visits.  I am guessing he sees this as better than a top exec or a lobbyist.”
From left to right: Congressman Joe Courtney (D-CT), Congressman John B. Larson (D-CT), Steve Sabourin, GM of Carris Reels in Enfield, CT, and Congressman Richard E. Neal (D-MA).
In an email from Steve Sabourin of Carris Reels:
“This was a great chance meeting at the airport after visiting Congressman Neal the day before. Congressman Neal said he loved the way we do things. I asked him what he meant. Basically, he loved that employee owners were making visits. I am guessing he sees this as better than a top exec or a lobbyist.”
Northwest Chapter President, Judy Lippel, Sletten, Inc., with Montana members of Congress on Capitol Hill:  Senator Jon Tester (D-MT), Congressman Steve Daines (R-MT) and Senator John E. Walsh (D-MT).
Northwest Chapter President, Judy Lippel, Sletten, Inc., with Montana members of Congress on Capitol Hill: Senator Jon Tester (D-MT), Congressman Steve Daines (R-MT) and Senator John E. Walsh (D-MT).
New England Chapter members visit with Congressman Richard E. Neal (D-MA).
New England Chapter members visit with Congressman Richard E. Neal (D-MA).
Illinois Chapter members visit with Congresswoman Robin Kelly (D-IL).
Illinois Chapter members visit with Congresswoman Robin Kelly (D-IL).
Illinois Chapter members visit with Congressman Brad Schneider (D-IL).
Illinois Chapter members visit with Congressman Brad Schneider (D-IL).

What, “We” Worry?

This article originally ran in the December 2013 issue of the ESOP Report, the newsletter of The ESOP Association. Archived issues are available on The ESOP Association’s website.

We’re a week + into 2014 but this column is a nice reminder for members of the ESOP community.

Many will recall that in the last quarter of the 20th Century, Alfred E. Neuman, the face of the then famous Mad Magazine, captured the public’s fancy with his slogan, “What, Me Worry?” complete with a silly expression. The ESOP community needs to avoid the “What, Me Worry” view of possible rewrites of the Federal income tax laws that impact ESOP creation and operation because cable news TV keep telling audiences that Congress will not pass a tax reform bill.

The ESOP Association will continue to take a different view, and yes, ESOP advocates should worry about tax laws impacting your ESOP accounts and your ESOP clients until…

Later, this column will give the signal when it’s safe to stop worrying.

Here is an analysis that goes beyond the superficial media reports.

Tax reform is important to the ESOP community without regard to whether the House of Representatives considers tax reform legislation in 2014; without regard to whether the Senate considers tax reform legislation in 2014; without regard to whether tax reform legislation lands on President Obama’s desk in 2014.

Why say it’s important even after saying legislation is not going to be considered by the full Congress and thus never become law in 2014?

Simple — tax law history. Regarding major tax legislation, what the House Ways and Means Committee agrees to, becomes the foundation for what actually makes it to a President, the same year, the next year, or even the next two to four years.

Let’s get specific. In 2014, if the House Ways and Means Committee reports to the full House a tax reform bill that repeals the current favorable tax treatment of S ESOPs, or the cap gains deferral for sale to an ESOP of stock of a privately held C corporation, or the tax deduction for dividends paid on ESOP stock by a C corporation, or the possibility that both principal and interest are tax deductible for payments on a loan to acquire employer stock for the ESOP, or contributions to an ESOP are capped along with all other ERISA dc plans at a level below current law, or any other schemes to raise tax revenue by limiting the benefits of an employer sponsored retirement savings plan, then any of the above in a tax reform bill recommended by the Ways and Means Committee has better than a 50% chance of being law someday. [This sentence was long for a reason — to explain that some provisions of a tax reform bill could impact your ESOP and not be labeled an “ESOP” provision.]

So, during this special time of year, one might welcome the New Year with the false serenity that their ESOPs are A-OK in terms of the year 2014, and back off on the goal of educating, or re-educating, their members of Congress that ESOPs are good for the employees, good for the company, good for the community, and good for the United States.

It is time to toast the New Year, and to rededicate to the principle that persistent repetition is the best policy with regard to making sure our modest national policy promoting employee ownership through the ESOP model is continued.

And to answer the “until” question above, the following words, “Until the Chair of the House Ways and Means Committee says firmly, with no ifs and buts, ‘The Committee will not recommend a tax reform bill in 2014.’” And he just might say no to a tax reform bill at some point in 2014, but why take a nap thinking he will.

Tax Reform Update, December 2013

In a final 2013 tax reform, ESOP Association President, J. Michael Keeling, provides Association members with an update on the process and what the ESOP community needs to do in response to coming changes. He also touches briefly on the recent budget resolution and an ESOP case before the Supreme Court. Read The ESOP Association’s statement about the case here.

Stay Focused

This article originally ran as the Washington Report column in the October 2013 issue of the ESOP Report, the newsletter of The ESOP Association. The ESOP Report newsletter is available to Association members on the website.

With the conclusion of Employee Ownership Month, we thought it was an important message to stay focused on your ESOP.

There is no question that the mess in D.C. with the Congress and the President not able to keep basic government functions operational causes most people to throw their hands up and say, “Don’t bother me about possible legislative action involving ESOP laws; Congress cannot even keep the government’s doors open. Fie on all.”

This reaction dominates citizen views, be they left, right, middle of the road, or all of the above.

This column has often said that the effective advocate has to understand the Big Picture to win a specific campaign for ESOPs. But, as Ralph Waldo Emerson said, a foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of small minds.

So, ESOP advocates will be taking a very risky posture to tune down outreach to their members of Congress on the grounds that Congress will do nothing to alter current tax laws to the detriment of employee owners.

Number one, the Congressional tax committees are not Congress. What they do in developing new tax laws is not 100%, or even 50%, determined by the Congressional and White House gridlock.

Number two, what the tax committees do is 90% of the final tax law changes that will be included in a reformed tax code when action by Congress is finally taken.

In other words, the tax committees may finalize their versions of a new tax bill in 2014, and Congress may not send a new tax reform proposal to the President until 2015/2016 or even beyond. But that 2015/2016 proposal will be very likely be nearly the same as what the tax committees agreed to in 2013/2014.

Number three, what is the negative outcome of ESOP advocates continuing to make the case that the Federal tax code should continue a modest national policy to continue the best jobs policy in the U.S. because ESOP companies in the vast majority of instances are more productive, more profitable providing locally-controlled, sustainable jobs with excellent retirement savings benefits? There is none.

Some ESOP advocates also explain their sitting on the sidelines because her or his member of Congress is not on the Congressional tax committees — the House Ways and Means Committee and the Senate Finance Committee. Constituent to member advocacy is the most effective advocacy work possible; the second most effective advocacy work is Congressional member to Congressional member. In other words, a Republican member of Congress not on Ways and Means advocating for ESOPs because her or his constituent has asked him or her to do so with a Republican on the tax committee, especially if from the same state or region, is very effective. In other words, a pro-ESOP statement from a Texas Republican not on Ways and Means to a Texas Republican on Ways and Means or a New England Democrat not on Ways and Means to a New England Democrat on Ways and Means is priceless.

In sum, do not let disgust with partisan shenanigans in D.C. back you off advocating for ESOPs with your Congress people.

Be safe; not sorry.

Stringing Pieces Together for the Future of ESOPs

This article originally ran as the President’s Page column in the October 2013 issue of the ESOP Report, the newsletter of The ESOP Association. The ESOP Report newsletter is available to Association members on the website.

While Employee Ownership Month (EOM), the Annual Awards for Communications Excellence (AACE), and a national policy sanctioned by the Federal government, might seem disconnected, as a package all are important to each and every employee owner in the United States.

A note about each:

2013 EOM Poster ComSonics - ESOP Poster 2013 72 dpiEOM (see page one for more info; the 2013 poster contest winner is at left) was born in the late 80s as an idea promoted by former Executive Director of the National Center for Employee Ownership, Corey Rosen. When it was presented to the then primary governing body of the Association, the seven person Executive Committee of the Association’s 40 person Board of Directors, the reaction was not enthusiastic. Two or three men on the Executive Committee — in those days all leaders of the Association were men — were of the same mind that it would be an intrusion on the individual plans of each Association member who was doing their “own” thing. As one leader said, “Every month at my company is Employee Ownership Month!” On the other hand, two or three of the men were of the mind that Mr. Rosen had an excellent idea.

With the passage of a few years, and the view that EOM would be a good thing, the Association went all in to promote employee ownership among its corporate members and the idea of “celebrating” the unique, and positive, impact broad based ownership has on an ESOP company and its employees.

Go to our blog and/or YouTube Channel to see what is happening today — special events, visits by decision makers, both local government and national, and meaningful education about how an ESOP company can make each employee more satisfied, with more financial security, than any other organizational structure of a for profit enterprise. And, if you are not into learning from blogs and YouTube, just take time to peruse the Association’s priceless Press and Event Planning Kit for EOM. It contains a “how to” with examples of all the steps and activities an ESOP company can take to enhance ownership among employees, become more noticed and respected in their community, and impact those who consider laws that affect their companies and their employees’ retirement security.

esopaacedarkerBut the one Association program, and this has been stated over and over, that has motivated more to put emphasis on making an ESOP company be all it can be, which only happens when employee owners commit to the fact that, when individual effort is maximized, the “team” wins. This Association program is the AACE program. While thrilling to win a “national” AACE Award recognition, with a modest financial “prize” such as complimentary registration to the Association’s Annual Conference, it’s not the only point of the AACE program. The mere process of cataloging what a company is doing to enhance the impact of wide spread ownership among all full-time employees is a “winner.” Employee owners in a company working on an AACE entry begin to appreciate what their company is doing to make the company special, learning how the more subjective power of ownership is being perceived by fellow employees, and utilizing that learning process more effectively that results in a higher performing company. Each year the process becomes more professional; in turn the Association has to conform AACE rules to new methods of communications, internal and external, that make the process even more professional.

And never ever overlook that part and parcel of the AACE process is the generation of creativity, for example, the posters for the poster contest. Creativity builds team spirit and appreciation. Photos of all poster entries going back to 2007 can be viewed on the Association’s website. Login using the Members Login button at the top of the homepage. Go to About the Association. On the left side menu, under Leadership, click Advisory Committees. The posters are located on the Ownership Culture Committee page.

Our nation has a very modest national policy to encourage employee ownership through the ESOP model. Never kid yourself; there are people who love being cynics and who are by nature, naysayers. Some of these folks occupy positions that influence leaders of the Executive Branch of the government, as evidenced by the Administration’s position that a company with over $5 million in gross revenue a year should not have an ESOP. Some of these folks occupy top positions in the decision making process of the Congress where tax and labor laws are made. I know as I have listened to many a member of Congress talk about lower tax rates, and eliminating special rules for certain behavior, which would include ESOPs, as the best thing Congress can do for American business.

But what EOM and AACE do is prove the pudding is an excellent pudding the vast majority of time. The ESOP pudding proves its worth in a vivid manner when showcasing its ingredients with EOM activities, and posters that become visible in communities across America.

Together, EOM and AACE are key elements in saving ESOPs from the cynics.