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How much employee ownership are we talking about here?
A short version of a long answer to a short question
In brief: How many individuals work in employee ownership trusts in the United States? Somewhere between 1,400 and 4,000 at 18 active employee ownership trusts. But it gets much more interesting than that!
The background: In advance of next week’s Employee Ownership Ideas Forum in DC, a colleague of mine asked me how many employees worked for employee ownership trusts.
The detail: I went back to our database of EOTs and PPTs to have a look. Based on the number of employees companies posted on LinkedIn, here are some numbers:
Going with a tight definition of employee ownership trusts gets us to that top line number, between 1,400 and 4,000 employees at 18 active employee ownership trusts (EOTs).
If we expand out to include perpetual purpose trusts (including Organically Grown Company, Zingerman’s, and Grand Central Bakery) that number jumps to between 13,000 and 60,000 employees at 31 active perpetual purpose trusts (PPTs), including employee ownership trusts.
That number is driven by one company, Hobby Lobby, about whose own “steward ownership” model we know relatively little. They account for 10,000-50,000 of those PPT numbers, without which the numbers would be 3,000-10,000 employees.
Those numbers don’t include other non-employee beneficiaries of perpetual purpose trusts. That’s not a side issue; some trusts, like the Kensington Corridor Trust, are not about employees, but about community members in the neighborhoods the trust is set up to benefit.
EOTs and PPTs are, of course, not a unique American phenomenon. There are 1,000-2,000 employee ownership trusts in the UK where they have taken off, and purpose trusts originated in Germany as a type of steward ownership, a broader category of ownership types.
In context: According to the National Center for Employee Ownership, in 2020 ESOPs in the US covered between 10.1 million and 13.9 million participants at almost 6,500 companies. And in 2021, the Democracy at Work Institute identified just south of 6,000 members at slight more than 600 worker cooperatives.