September 3, 2019

U.S. Bishop Calls for Employee Ownership in Labor Day Statement

Rev. Frank J. Dewane, the Chairman of the Committee on Domestic Justice and Human Development of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, issued a Labor Day statement calling, among other things, for more employee ownership. The statement singled out both ESOPs and worker cooperatives as worthy of support, noting that "workers and owners both have rights and duties towards each other;  a business enterprise must view itself as a 'society of persons' rather than a mere commercial instrument."

The statement cites research results that have "shown the great benefits of employee ownership to workers, including higher wages than otherwise comparable firms, more stable employment, more job training opportunities, opportunities to participate more in firm decision-making, better benefits, and much more wealth over the course of one’s career (this holds true for low- and moderate-income workers as well). The advantages of worker ownership are especially pronounced for young people, women, and people of color." (For research on this point, see OwnershipEconomy.org.)

Rev. Dewane issued the statement on the 100th anniversary of the 1919 Bishops’ Program for Social Reconstruction, and he noted that the prior statement also supported worker ownership. The 1919 statement, written in the aftermath of World War 1, observes that "the full possibilities of increased production will not be realized so long as the majority of workers remain mere wage-earners. The majority must somehow become owners, or at least in part, of the instruments of production."