Americans Want Employee Ownership

It’s no surprise that Americans disagree about a lot of things….

Just try getting consensus on a group of people’s preference for cats or dogs, pie flavors or person most likely to take the Iron Throne in Game of Thrones. Close to impossible.

However, in new research released in May, funded by the Employee Ownership Foundation, and conducted by Rutgers researchers, it has become clear that the one thing we can all agree on is that we want to work for a company owned by its employees.

Nearly three-fourths of respondents (72 percent) to the General Social Survey would rather work for an employee-owned company than one owned by conventional shareholders or the government. 

The research also reveled that employee owned businesses enjoy uniquely broad support among Democrats, Republicans, and Independents.

Employees’ preference for employee owned companies transcend ideological and partisan divides, with 74 percent of Democrats, 72 percent of Republicans, and 67 percent of Independents voicing a preference for employee ownership.

Among respondents who cast a ballot in the 2016 presidential election, 76.5 percent of Trump voters and 75.5 percent of Clinton voters prefer employee share ownership.

“These results show that employee ownership is the equivalent of a political unicorn—something very large majorities of Americans agree upon, completely independent of political leanings,” said Jim Bonham, President of the Employee Ownership Foundation. “This research shows that employees across the spectrum value owning a stake in the companies where they work. After decades in Washington, I can say this level of political agreement is truly unique and shows that employee ownership transcends our nation’s political divide.”

“These results show that employee ownership is the equivalent of a political unicorn—something very large majorities of Americans agree upon, completely independent of political leanings,” said Jim Bonham, President of the Employee Ownership Foundation.

“Americans disagree about a lot of things, but this is not one of them,” said Beyster Distinguished Professor Joseph Blasi, Director of the Rutgers Institute for the Study of Employee Ownership and Profit Sharing. “Democrat or Republican, female or male, black or white, union or non-union, a majority of respondents said they prefer to work for a company with employee share ownership. It is rare to find such a national consensus on anything.”

The survey findings align with recent bipartisan support for employee share ownership on Capitol Hill. In 2018, the Republican chairs and Democratic ranking members of the Senate and House Committees on Small Business co-sponsored the Main Street Employee Ownership Act. Signed last August, the new law makes it easier for retiring business owners to sell to their employees through an ESOP.

ESOPs Address Wealth Inequality, New Study Finds

There is new evidence that ESOPs can be a powerful mechanism for addressing wealth inequality in America. A study released today by the Rutgers Institute for the Study of Employee Ownership and Profit Sharing shows that ESOPs help families significantly increase their assets, thereby shrinking gender and racial wealth gaps.

The Employee Ownership Foundation assisted by helping connect researchers with ESOP companies. The Foundation also encourages academic study of employee ownership by funding Kelso Fellowships; one of the study’s co-authors—Janet Boguslaw—is a Kelso Fellow.

The study is encouraging, but also shows there is more work to be done: While ESOPs are helping to narrow the wealth gap, a gap nonetheless remains.

Greater support of and participation in ESOPs—across all demographics and especially in disadvantaged communities—should help further narrow the wealth divide.

“Low and mid-income employees who have the opportunity to share in the capital built through their labor have greater wealth than their non-employee owner peers. Period.”

–Janet Boguslaw, study co-author

The idea that ESOPs can address wealth inequality—especially for those who are farthest behind, economically speaking—is one that is gathering steam. The Aspen Institute Economic Opportunities Program and the Rockefeller Foundation also are examining how ESOPs can help address this growing concern.

About the Research

The research released today was supported by a grant from the W.K. Kellogg Foundation, and was three years in the making. A Rutgers-led team of 15 researchers from nine colleges and universities nationwide interviewed nearly 200 employees at 21 companies that offer an ESOP retirement account. About half of the employees surveyed are defined as low- or moderate-income, based on their earnings.

The ESOP account gives these employees significant wealth, above and beyond their wages and other income.

Among the findings:

• While the typical American household has $17,000 in savings, the low/moderate-income employees in the study have ESOP account values ranging from $15,000 to $6 million, with a median value of $165,000.

• Of the low/moderate-income employees surveyed, those closest to retirement (ages 60 to 64) have 10 times more wealth than the typical American in that age group.

• Many low/moderate-income employees—especially single women—told researchers the ESOP gives them a sense of economic security and enables them to think about retirement for the first time.

• In ESOP firms with participatory management, workers improved their communication skills and learned open book management, which also enabled them to make better financial decisions at home.

To Boguslaw, the research provides a clear message: “Low and mid-income employees who have the opportunity to share in the capital built through their labor have greater wealth than their non-employee owner peers. Period.”

Study co-author Lisa Schur,said: “Employee ownership can have particular benefits for low-income women and people of color, who are often marginalized at the bottom of workplace organizations.” She added: “Not only can employee ownership lead to economic rewards, but it can also help these workers attain increased voice and skills in the workplace.”

The research should spur greater interest in ESOPs, and provides additional evidence for lawmakers and policy experts to consider when deciding to support employee ownership initiatives.

More Evidence of Foundation’s Impact on National Debate

The following article originally ran as the President’s Page column in the February 2015 issue of the ESOP Report, the newsletter of The ESOP Association.

More Evidence of Foundation’s Impact on National Debate

The first time I walked into a meeting of ESOP Association leaders, after spending many years around the legislative/political process in both the State of Texas and Washington, DC, I noted something differ­ent about the men’s thinking. [Sidebar: In those days, the leadership was all male.] They had two passions, not the typical one of most trade associations I had worked with prior to walking through that door to an ESOP Association governance meeting.

Yes, the men all expressed sincere, animated, inter­est in making sure that the laws that encouraged the creation and operation of ESOP companies remained in place or were improved. In other words, like most interest groups I had been around in my career up to that point, they were looking inward, at their own company, their own company’s bottom line, and at their own way of doing things in their company — the so called “style” or “culture” of the company they loved.

In hearing these expressions of self-interest, my thought was, “Yep, I have heard talk like this from many.”

But soon, I began to hear something different from these men; something one is more likely to hear at a cause oriented group — Common Cause, Right to Life, MoveOn, TEA Party, are examples, left and right — that the Association had to make employee ownership through the ESOP model national policy. Loved by the media; loved by the President; loved by the Congress; loved by academia; loved by think tanks, etc.

This cause orientation of the ESOP community has never gone away. As there are more ESOPs and more people experiencing the power of working and man­aging a well-run ESOP company, it grows bigger and more heartfelt.

This cause orientation led to the adoption of the Association’s Vision statement in 1993, and it has never really been changed. Our Vision is that the United States be a nation where a great majority of employees own stock in the companies where they work so that we have a catalyst for economic prosper­ity and employees can share in the wealth they help create.

Well the two orientations: work like heck to make sure ESOP tax benefits that enrich the ESOP company and the ESOP employees remain in place, and expand the benefits when possible, and spend resources and time to do outreach to the non-ESOP world, are not easily accommodated with the amount of money the Association collects each year. And believe me, if we said we were not going to pay attention to what the Congressional tax commit­tees were doing to tax laws impacting ESOPs because our modest resources and small number of staff were too busy putting on pro­grams convincing non-ESOP companies to be ESOPs, and paying big bucks to a national PR firm to infil­trate TV networks, major newspapers, etc. to only run positive ESOP stories, I suspect the ESOP world would dry up pretty quickly.

So, how to accomplish both passions? One, the nation is not going to love ESOPs if yours truly runs around the nation talking about how great ESOPs are; or writing pos­itive op-ed pieces for major newspapers; or having social media post­ings by thousands of ESOP fans to some elected official. No, when an ESOP advocate sings the praises of ESOPs to a non-believer, that non-believer’s response is “Duh, what does one expect from a self-serving ESOP fan; honest critique when there is ample evidence of ESOP companies, small, medium, and large, going bankrupt and employees getting zero for retirement?”

Key is knowing how big national policy develops in our nation. The typical pathway is academics, and men and women working in think tank who get interested in the issue. They do papers. The papers get published. They get jobs in think tanks and universities focusing on their published papers and research. They get tenure at their schools, or move from one school to another with more prestige.

If Democrats, when a Democrat becomes President, some are hired to work in the bowels of Treasury, Office of Management and Budget, or even on the direct White House staff, say the Council of Economic Advisors. Then their “team,” in my example, the Democrats lose, and the Republican team takes over and hires new people for jobs those Democrats had. Then in four, eight, twelve, sixteen years later, the Democrats win, and those young men and women who worked in these policy jobs years earlier, now come back at higher levels.

For example, many of the top advisors in the Obama Administration worked in the Clinton Administration at levels lower than what they have now.

For example, many of the top advisors to President George W. Bush’s Administration worked in his father’s, or the Reagan Administration in lower level jobs.

Where I am I headed with this commentary?

And what does the Employee Ownership Foundation have to do with it?

Well recently, the leftist think tank the Center for American Progress (CAP) had a summit, led by big name economic policy advisors. Summit leaders were a former Secretary of Treasury under President Clinton, and who was also a major advisor to President Obama in his first term; and a high official of the British government, Larry Summers and Ed Balls respectfully. The other fifteen summiteers developing recommendations to improve the economy mainly in the US were former Democratic governors, top news­paper commentators, economic advisors to President Clinton, and the list can go on.

What did the group recommend in their final report? Broad-based ownership, and mentioned ESOPs spe­cifically as a policy to increase broad-based ownership.

Big news because as a general rule, the so-called left has not touted employee ownership, except in rare instances by someone such as Senator Sanders of Vermont; but now it is front and center, among a liberal leaning think tank’s set of recommendations.

And by the way, the former head of the Office of Management and Budget under President Obama, Peter Orszag, published for Bloomberg an article on January 20 saying that President Obama should push to expand employee ownership, citing the book, The Citizen’s Share, by Rutgers Professors Blasi and Kruse, and Harvard professor Freeman.

What did the Employee Ownership Foundation have to do with these actions by big thought leaders endorsing more employee ownership? The Foundation did not have anything to do with the CAP summit; the Foundation had no role in any writing of The Citizen’s Share; no one in the Foundation ever said any­thing to Dr. Orszag.

But people at CAP in working slots that develop materials for men and women who made decisions at the summit have liaised with the Rutgers program which the Foundation supports, among others, with over $75,000 a year; The Citizen’s Share set forth findings, among many, that in some instances were developed with grants from the Foundation, such as grants to the National Center for Opinion Research’s quadrennial General Social Survey.

Public policy is not embedded in a nation by one magic moment. Reaching goal B is often not a straight line from A. Major changes in policy often take zig-zag routes over a long period.

But what was put forth by the CAP summit, and what Dr. Orszag said in that Bloomberg article had in a way, be it minor or major, outcomes for which the Foundation and its supporters can say, “Progress is being made in our journey to make our Vision real — and we, our Foundation, played a role.”


We have shared this video before but thought it was a fitting end to this column…

2015 Edmunson Scholarships


The Employee Ownership Foundation will be accepting applications for the 2015 Charles R. Edmunson Scholarships early next year. Deadline information will be announced on the Employee Ownership Foundation website in the coming weeks.

This Scholarship program honors employee ownership leader and advocate Charles R. Edmunson who dedicated a significant part of his life to educating employee owners of the benefits of widespread ownership in a free enterprise system. Mr. Edmunson was also instrumental in the creation of the Employee Ownership Foundation.

An Edmunson Scholarship awards an ESOP employer up to $1,250 to defray the expense of sending employee owners to employee ownership training programs such as the Employee Ownership Foundation’s Employee Owner Retreat or the Association Annual Conference in Washington, DC. The Scholarship may also be used for Association Chapter and Regional Conferences. The Scholarship is for non-managerial employee owners.

Employee Ownership Foundation Lunch Video

We wanted to share with our readers a video that debuted at The ESOP Association’s Las Vegas Conference & Trade Show last week. The following video aired at the Employee Ownership Foundation Luncheon held on Thursday, November 13, 2014 and highlights a few of the Foundation’s projects in 2014 as well as media coverage of the book, The Citizen’s Share by Dr. Joseph Blasi, Dr. Richard Freeman, and Dr. Douglas Kruse.


2014 Employee Owner Retreat

The Employee Owner Retreat is a course in capitalism for average pay employees that enhances each participant’s understanding of, and contribution to, her or his ESOP company.

2014 Employee Owner Retreat

August 14 – 16, 2014

Doubletree Suites

2111 Butterfield Rd

Downers Grove, IL 60515

Questions? Contact: Maya Van Buren 202-293-2971, meetings AT or Chris Cooper at the Ohio Employee Ownership Center 330-672-0338, ccooper1 AT

More information about the Employee Owner Retreat.

Employee Ownership Foundation to Hold Live Auction at the 37th Annual Conference in Washington, DC in May

A few more updates about the upcoming Annual Conference next week…

On Friday, May 9, 2014, the Employee Ownership Foundation will hold a live auction during the Friday luncheon to benefit the Foundation and to support programs that will increase the level of awareness and appreciation of the benefits of employee ownership in America.

Come prepared to bid on a favorite prize and support the Foundation and employee ownership in America!

(click the photos to enlarge)

EOF_PubAuction_4.21.14_(2)In addition to the live auction at the Friday lunch, a silent auction will also take place. Some great prizes are available.

EOF_SilentAuction_Pg1EOF_SilentAuction_Pg2The Employee Ownership Foundation Booth will also have copies of The Citizen’s Share: Putting Ownership Back into Democracy by Joseph R. Blasi, Richard B. Freeman, and Douglas L. Kruse. A $20 minimum contribution to the Employee Ownership Foundation is suggested per copy. A review is here.

Thoughts on a New Book, The Citizen’s Share

Review of the new book, The Citizen’s Share: Putting Ownership Back Into Democracy

As reviewed by: Joseph Cabral, Immediate Past Chair of the Employee Ownership Foundation, Thousand Oaks, CA

Editor’s Note: Book reviews are not a regular feature of ESOP Association publications or social media.This article originally ran in the January 2014 issue of the ESOP Report, the newsletter of The ESOP Association. We are sharing the following information as a service to members of the ESOP community.

IMG_1201As Chair of The ESOP Association at the turn of the millennium, I called for The Great National Debate on Employee Ownership. The second year of my term, the debate talk disappeared as we defended employee ownership in the wake of Enron, Worldcom, and United Airlines. Although the problems with these companies were not the result of broad-based employee ownership, the inclusion of employee ownership made it difficult to overcome the argument that employee ownership was somehow involved in the failure.

The opportunity to advance employee ownership was given another chance when in 2002 President George W. Bush proclaimed his belief in an Ownership Society. The ESOP community was excited at the prospect of the President endorsing the idea of an Ownership Society and just as quickly disappointed when he restricted the definition to home ownership.

A new book, The Citizen’s Share, opens up yet another opportunity to debate the ownership issue. Authors, Professors Joseph R. Blasi, Richard B. Freeman, and Douglas L. Kruse, provide readers with the foundation to have the Great National Debate on Employee Ownership. The authors themselves seem to desire such a debate as they write, “Following American thinking about broad-based ownership and having a citizen’s share in society from the 18th to the current Century can, we believe, help us develop a road map to increase the citizen’s share of our economy. That is the purpose of this book.”

The authors take us on a journey through American history starting with the Founding Fathers, through the Industrial Revolution, to today’s information age. The authors provide documents, speeches, and quotes from our Founding Fathers warning readers of the consequences if wealth producing property is not distributed fairly. The country was founded by people escaping their homeland’s aristocracy that choked opportunity for upward mobility and the accumulation of wealth. Inherited wealth and power was the societal norm. What they sought was a land where freedom and liberty could be the principles for the founding of the country.

The authors follow the agricultural roots where most people could create wealth by farming their land and the beginnings of the industrial age, when cod fishermen participated in profit sharing associated with their catch, to the Louisiana Purchase, which added sufficient land for the new citizens to own, to companies that provided profit sharing and share ownership to employees in the industrial, and now, information age.

Today, we are concerned about the unsustainability of the current system. The public generally take exception to the current outcome but seem to have accepted, “the rich get richer and the poor get poorer,” as inherent to the capitalistic system.

The authors point us to a series of questions on the General Social Survey that are specific to broad-based ownership (the series of questions was supported by funding from the Employee Ownership Foundation) for a counterpoint to the conventional wisdom that shared ownership is insignificant in our society. The authors note the study discloses that “about 47% of private-sector full-time wage and salary workers have some form of shared ownership in small amounts, except for ESOPs, in the firms where they work.” Such ownership takes the form of profit sharing, gain sharing, as well as ESOPs. Thus, shared ownership is indeed a significant part of our society and there is a need to expand shares and expand the level of wealth they represent.

Our ESOP community knows the outcome of our capitalistic society does not have to result in greater concentration of wealth. In fact, ESOPs stand as testimony that broad-based ownership of wealth creates greater wealth in our nation and shares that wealth more fairly among those who helped create the wealth, making us all capitalists.

The authors cite a late 19th Century congregational pastor, William Gladden, who addressing rising tensions over wealth inequality and horrible working conditions suggested the solution was what he called cooperation, “by making the laborer his own capitalist.” Those of us in the ESOP community understand the impact of employee ownership through ESOPs and The Citizen’s Share provides us with the evidence, arguments, and historical material to rebut our naysayers. Now is the time to make our ESOP voices heard by not just our fellow ESOPers but by the public-at-large.

The Citizens Share is a must read for all in the employee ownership community and the rest of the American public. Read it and pass it on to all you know. If we all make sharing our ESOP story a priority, we can make a difference and make our nation a more just and economically fair society.

For information on where to purchase a copy of The Citizen’s Share, click here.

The Citizen’s Share: Putting Ownership Back Into Democracy, authored by Joseph R. Blasi, Richard B. Freeman, and Douglas L. Kruse, published by Yale University Press, ISBN: 978-0-300-19225-4.

Employee Ownership Foundation Ends 2013 on a High Note

FoundationAt the 2013 Las Vegas Conference & Trade Show held in November, the Employee Ownership Foundation raised approximately $100,000 ensuring that employee ownership research and Foundation programs will not only continue but thrive in 2014.

“Once more, we are impressed by the incredible generosity of the ESOP community,” stated Employee Ownership Foundation President, J. Michael Keeling. “Thank you to everyone who donated both time and effort to the Employee Ownership Foundation in 2013.”

To add to the excitement, the Employee Ownership Foundation held a book signing at the Conference. (More info in the November 2013 ESOP Report issue, page 1.) On November 7, 2013, Professor Joseph R. Blasi, a preeminent scholar in the field of employee ownership, J. Robert Beyster Professor, and sociologist at the School of Management and Labor Relations at Rutgers University, spoke to Conference attendees about the roots of employee ownership in America’s history. Following his presentation, he met with attendees at the Foundation booth to sign copies of his newly released book: The Citizen’s Share: Putting Ownership Back into Democracy. He co-authored the new book with Richard B. Freeman (Herbert Ascherman Professor of Economics at Harvard University) and Douglas L. Kruse (Professor of Industrial Relations and Human Resources and an economist at the School of Management and Labor Relations, Rutgers University). The Citizen’s Share was released on November 26, 2013. Additional information about the book can be found on the book’s website.

IMG_1201Individuals who donated over $100 to the Employee Ownership Foundation in 2013 are eligible to receive a copy of the book. For more information, please contact Gwenn Rosenthal at gwenn AT

Don’t forget, donations to the Employee Ownership Foundation are tax deductible; contributions must be received by the Foundation before year-end 2013 to qualify. For additional information about the Foundation, or to donate, please visit the website.

FOUNDATION NEWS Passionate Speech by Preeminent Scholar of Employee Ownership Ignites Crowd at 2013 Las Vegas Conference

Blasi Vegas Book Signing 2On Thursday, November 7, 2013, Professor Joseph R. Blasi, a preeminent scholar in the field of employee ownership, J. Robert Beyster Professor, and sociologist at the School of Management and Labor Relations at Rutgers University, spoke to Conference attendees about the roots of employee ownership in America’s history.

Dr. Blasi spent two years researching his new book, The Citizen’s Share: Putting Ownership Back into Democracy, which he co-authored with Richard B. Freeman (Herbert Ascherman Professor of Economics at Harvard University) and Douglas L. Kruse (Professor of Industrial Relations and Human Resources and an economist at the School of Management and Labor Relations, Rutgers University). During his presentation, he shared his thoughts and discoveries that went into the new book. Starting with the American Revolution, continuing through America’s first Presidential term with George Washington, the cod fishing industry — which was a pioneer in the advancement of average paid employees having a share of their efforts as a condition of a Federal government bailout — and covered the first major piece of legislation regarding stock ownership in America. He also talked about the involvement of several more US Presidents and notable historical figures, including John Adams, Thomas Jefferson, and Abraham Lincoln. Dr. Blasi left a room of 1,000 plus listeners, and employee ownership enthusiasts, entranced.

“If you missed Dr. Blasi’s speech, you missed an education,” said ESOP Association President, J. Michael Keeling. “The information he shared was invaluable to our employee Blasi Vegas Book Signing 3ownership cause. The history of the employee ownership movement is something all of us in this community should be aware of.”

Dr. Blasi’s new book, which covers the history of the employee stock ownership movement, will be available from Yale University Press on November 26, 2013; Kindle editions are now available as well as sample chapters on audio and other devices. The Employee Ownership Foundation will provide a copy of the book to anyone making a $100 contribution to the Foundation, with a limit of five books. Many of the Las Vegas Conference attendees did make contributions and received books. Many said they would give the book to their Representative and Senators.

Additional information about the book can be found on the Yale University Press website.

According to the Yale University Press: “The idea of workers owning the businesses where they work is not new. In America’s early years, Washington, Adams, Jefferson, and Madison believed that the best economic plan for the Republic was for citizens to have some ownership stake in the land, which was the main form of productive capital. This book traces the development of that share idea in American history and brings its message to today’s economy, where business capital has replaced land as the source of wealth creation. Based on a ten-year study of profit sharing and employee ownership at small and large corporations, this important and insightful work makes the case that the Founders’ original vision of sharing ownership and profits offers a viable path toward restoring the middle class. Blasi, Freeman, and Kruse show that an ownership stake in a corporation inspires and increases worker loyalty, productivity, and innovation. Their book offers history-, economics-, and evidence-based policy ideas at their best.”

Blasi Vegas Book Signing 1The December 2013 issue of the ESOP Report will feature additional information about the book, including a review.

“While many of us think we know the history of employee ownership, what we all need is a larger education, larger view, and larger historical perspective on how it all began to understand where it’s going,” said J. Michael Keeling. “Dr. Blasi takes the issue of employee ownership, and from reading his work, one knows just how passionately he feels about it, and makes it very accessible.”