Employee Ownership Keeps Moving Forward

On this blog in July 2012, we talked about Judson T. Bradford of the W.J. Bradford Paper Company, now the Bradford Company, located in Holland, MI. Mr. Bradford began his ESOP journey in the 1950s and for well over 30+ years championed the ESOP cause among local and national leaders which led to the introduction of what is probably the first pro-employee ownership bill in Congress and helped to get employee ownership on the 1968 Republican Party platform. In 2003, the ESOP Report covered Mr. Bradford’s work in this article.

“Saying that Judson is an unsung hero of the ESOP cause is an understatement,” said ESOP Association President, J. Michael Keeling. “Without people like him, who saw and understood the vision of the ESOP’s founder, Louis Kelso, the concept of employee ownership wouldn’t be the same today.”

Some of Mr. Bradford’s letters and work surrounding ESOPs was covered in this blog post from July 2012.  The notebook Mr. Bradford shared with the Association in 2003 is full of letters to several notable individuals including President Gerald Ford, Michigan Governor George Romney, father of the 2012 Republican Nominee for President, Mitt Romney, Jacob Javits and Guy Vander Jagt, prominent members of Congress at the time. It also contains information on speeches and the first bill introduced in the U.S. Congress that supported the concept of broadened employee ownership. It’s worth a look and it’s an amazing story documented by a man with a belief in the movement.

As it turns out, Mr. Bradford is still working to further the ESOP cause. Michael Keeling recently had the opportunity to speak with Mr. Bradford who told Mr. Keeling about his efforts to include the concept of broad-based employee ownership in the academic world. He is urging the leadership of GVSU, Michigan’s Grand Valley State University, to focus on the growing body of knowledge about employee ownership. Work the Employee Ownership Foundation is doing as well to encourage the teaching of broad-based ownership in the academic world.

“It really is wonderful to know that he is still working for our cause. We have some very deep roots in our ESOP community and we’re moving forward every day,” stated Keeling. “Judson’s dedication to broad-based ownership is on par with leaders such as George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, John Adams, James Madison, Russell Long, and Louis Kelso, among many others that have been discussed in the new book called The Citizen’s Share which talks about the history of the employee ownership movement.”

The Citizen’s Share: Putting Ownership Back into Democracy was released by Yale University Press on November 26, 2013 and is co-authored by Joseph R. Blasi, Douglas L. Kruse, and Richard B. Freeman. More information about the book can be found here.

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