WASHINGTON – Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), along with Sens. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.) and Maggie Hassan (D-N.H.), introduced two pieces of legislation Thursday to help workers around the country form employee-owned businesses. 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 nearly 10,000 employee-owned businesses which employ roughly 10 million people. 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) and Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) and was introduced in the House by Rep. Jared Polis (D-Colo.).
The second bill introduced today 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.
“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,” 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.”