The Real World of Employee Ownership

The Real World of Employee Ownership

The Real World of Employee Ownership

The Real World of Employee Ownership


Using data from a study of employee-owned companies in Ohio, this book offers an empirical portrait of firms with Employee Stock Ownership Plans. The authors examine firms that have succeeded in employment owmership and those with failed plans.


Now that the Cold War has ended and the great ideological contest is settled between capitalism and socialism, perhaps Americans can at last look with clearer eyes at deformities within their own economic system. The most central of these is the employment system itself in which most people go to work for someone else and, unless they happen to be highly skilled professionals or independently wealthy, they consign a major portion of their lifetimes to the direction of others, forfeiting basic rights and autonomy in the process of earning a living.

With few exceptions, the system works like this: capital hires labor and capital claims ownership of the final product. Can one imagine an economy in which labor hires capital? Where workers have a legal right to the profits and legal responsibility for the liabilities because they are the owners, where workers jointly manage the firm and themselves in a democratic fashion?

This conception of work life is not an abstract vision beyond human possibility, because these conditions already exist for millions of Americans who work in employee-owned companies, cooperatives, or partnerships.

The great goal of reform ought to be making this arrangement the common experience for Americans—or at least forcing these questions of ownership, rights, and work into what is now the sterile economic debate of American politics. For at least two generations, some Americans from the ranks of both workers and owners have been struggling to create employee ownership, not as a grand political gesture but as a practical reality in their everyday lives, in the offices and . . .

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