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Dr. Hand Goes to Washington
Reporting out from the first Employee Ownership Ideas Forum
The first day, at the U.S. Capitol, focused on employee ownership policy, with a focus on recently introduced legislation. Speakers on the second day, hosted at the Aspen Institute’s DC offices, discussed the future of employee ownership.
I’m moving houses this week (!) so this will be brief, but here are some highlights:
Day One (agenda here)
It is not every day that your average American gets to hear from five different legislators. At the event were:
Senators Ben Cardin (D-Maryland) and Chris Van Hollen (D-Maryland); and Representatives Blake Moore (R-Utah), Chrissy Houlahan (D-Pennsylvania), and Dean Phillips (D-Minnesota), who delivered this gem:
“My dad used to say that money is like manure. Stack it up and it stinks; spread it around and it’s fertilizer.”
The rest of the day was filled with presentations and panels from investors, bureaucrats, and employee owners, lobbyists, and researchers.
Rutgers professor and forum organizer Joseph Blasi opened with an anecdote about the first economic report written in the United States—by Thomas Jefferson, on profit-sharing in the cod industry.
The big news of the day came from Prudential Financial, which announced multi-million dollar grants to Project Equity and Ownership Works, organizations promoting two very different versions of employee ownership.
Helpfully, Rutgers Dean Adrienne Eaton closed out the first day at the event with her own summary. Her take on what is needed to expand employee ownership:
Improve access to capital
Make transactions and conversions easier
Clarify, relax, and streamline regulations to make it easier for street-level bureaucrats to support employee ownership
Continue to expand the tax incentives available for employee ownership
Make bankers and financial service providers more aware of and knowledgeable about employee ownership
Conduct more research on the broader financial and civic benefits of employee ownership, what Senator Cardin called its “public value”
Promote both federal and state-level policy changes
Finally, she posed a (rhetorical) question: do employee ownership advocates spend too much time preaching to the choir?
Day Two (agenda here)
Eaton was not on hand to wrap up the second day of panels, so a couple of quick highlights:
One panel focused primarily on how employee ownership does and could benefit marginalized and minority communities. Employee and worker owners are whiter and more male than the workforce as a whole, and may groups—Project Equity+Morehouse, Rutgers+DAWI, and the Kellogg Foundation—are working to correct this.
Another panel touched on how employee ownership fits in with “new industrial policy” which, in the wake of the Trump administration, seems to have bipartisan support. This is interesting to me as someone interested in American politics. As with the war in Ukraine, industrial policy now splits both Republicans and Democrats in half. Employee ownership, by contrast, seems to appeal (so far!) across the political spectrum.
Go Deeper: If you’re curious to hear more about the event, reach out!—I have pages full of notes.