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The Basics

Learn about employee ownership….

In the United States, employee ownership usually refers to ownership of a business through an employee stock ownership plan, or ESOP.

Legally, an ESOP is just a trust that holds shares on behalf of each employee. Close to 7,000 American companies have established ESOPs, and the ESOP owns a majority of shares in most of them. An estimated 2,000 companies are 100% owned by their employees through an ESOP. The list includes many large and midsize companies, such as Publix Super Markets and W.L. Gore & Associates, as well as many smaller businesses.

When a company converts to employee ownership, good things can happen. The company’s performance nearly always improves. Employees typically earn (and save) more money. People learn to pull together. For a sampling of the research that supports these statements, click here and here.

Want to know more? The National Center for Employee Ownership, a nonprofit research and advocacy organization based in Oakland, California, offers a handy 24-page booklet (see cover at left) that introduces the idea, shows its extent, and tells lots of stories about employee-owned companies. It’s the best first stop for company owners, employees, service providers, public officials, and everyone else who’s interested. You can download a pdf for free or order hard copies for $2 each here (minimum order 5 copies, discounts available for large orders). Also, check the links below to see whether there’s a center in your state.