Home | About | Donate

Hacking the American Dream: Progressive Senators Go Big for Worker Ownership


Hacking the American Dream: Progressive Senators Go Big for Worker Ownership

Jessica Bonanno

The best-kept business model secret of our age is about to get the spotlight it has long deserved. It's employee ownership—a proven, common-sense pathway to reduce inequality, anchor jobs at home, and rebuild a strong and stable economy, using a vehicle that’s as American as apple pie: making entrepreneurs out of regular, working folks.


"Progressive Senators"
-- all two of them?


Thank you for this obvious great information and unknown ways of doing business. I hope your article appears in places like NYT instead of Tom Friedman, Washington Post, Wall Street Journal. Workers working in their own interest and the interest of their fellow workers, community and nation as a whole.


We have more than two progressive Senators and representatives. 15 of these reps introduce the peoples budget but did corporate media cover it? No! This budget was for the people and America not necessarily the rich are never satisfied unless they get it all.


UNITED AIRLINES is an employee-owned company. How many customers think that's better for the public? Such companies still have to operate in a capitalist market, and in this particular market there is fierce competition, so they still have to cut costs, cut service and worse, to stay profitable. What we need is a publicly owned economy, not just employee-owned companies.


Half owned. The problem has been, as always, bad management. Management loves to blame the unions, but somehow unions work well with the well managed companies in Germany. BTW, in Germany middle management is unionized as well. It is only executives who are not. My wife was a branch bank manager in Germany and a shop steward for her union.


It is not an entirely unknown way of doing business. Richard Wolfe has been promoting the idea for a number of years and Cuba is actively moving toward such a model. The Mondragon Corporation in Spain is the worlds largest worker-owned business and it has run a successful business (now a conglomerate) for several decades. There are a large number of these enterprises, even in the United States, but throughout the world.

Wolfe has a website devoted to promoting worker owned co-ops and you can listen to his presentations on the topic there or on youtube.

As for NYT, Washington Post, WSJ or the like, don't hold your breath. They are pretty much in the pocket of the 1% and the last thing they want is competition for big business.


Thanks Paul, I have known of others but it gets lost in the multi tasking daily routine. I wish it was more front and center. I do shop at employee/community owned retail and remember hearing about I think a window mfg in Chicago that was going under and employees were trying to keep it going and become a employee own mfg facility. Haven't heard about it since. Julie


Every worker turned into a capitalist...woweee...what a revolutionary concept...except it has been promoted by conservatives since the early 19th C.

Employee ownership’s proven track is that it is a failure and we have a 200-plus year record documenting that humanizing or taming a predatory economic system like capitalism is an unachievable task.

But no doubt some readers will refer me to Dick Wolff's self-managed capitalism WSDEs but they remained tied to the wage labor relationship...wage slavery with shackles of satin rather than steel, otherwise known as self-managed exploitation.

You can’t “out compete” conventional capitalism. Corporations will always have larger capital to invest, they will impose policies of increased and mounting exploitation and employee owned businesses are subject to the same market forces and the necessity to compete and under-cut rivals.

But then i am sure someone will direct me to Mondragon...pleeeeeze...it may well be owned by a minority of its workforce but heed Chomsky "Mondragon. It’s worker owned, it’s not worker managed, although the management does come from the workforce often, but it’s in a market system and they still exploit workers in South America, and they do things that are harmful to the society as a whole and they have no choice. If you’re in a system where you must make profit in order to survive."

But i am not at all that Sanders endorses such a model of capitalism - I have never accepted his definition that the European Welfare State "safety-net" was any more socialism than a church charity


Personally, I prefer the German model.

But you'd have to overcome a lot of hero worship of the Zuckerman/Gates/Buffet style of seemingly benign ownership to get that (re)started here.

Of course, you're right about taming capitalism. One of its tenets is "creative destruction." Efficiency can get a bit ruthless and violent. Collateral damage is part of the scenery.


Mmmmmmm...worker ownership. This has to be done right, because with scant experience with this in the U.S., we have to learn from the mistakes made elsewhere.

In Venezuela, in a burst of enthusiasm, workers in relatively small businesses saw the cash flow (not the books) and decided to take over ownership and management. With government support, many did. A fish farm in the Andes with a dozen employees made the transition, and promptly ran into trouble. The workers knew how to fed the fish, but failed to upgrade and maintain the earthen berms because that meant less take home pay. In short order, the whole system broke down, the fish died, and the place is shuttered and the jobs evaporated.

Many questions need answered: How to relinquish ownership when an employee leaves? How much to allocate to growth, and how much to take home pay? Does one take on debt to diversify, or stick to comfortable job knowledge? Etc., etc. Plan well before you jump.


Agreed. Economic Democracy demands both ownership and control. In a cooperative enterprise the worker-owners must also be the primary decision makers (for larger scale operations that go beyond local decision making, a one-person-one-vote election of administrative facilitators would be a minimum requirement). It's nice that the Sanders/Gildebrand proposals allow for such structures to be built more easily,