February 20, 2020

Employee Ownership in Democratic Presidential Debate

Executive Director

During the February 19, 2020, debate of the candidates for the Democratic presidential nomination, moderator MSNBC anchor Hallie Jackson asked Pete Buttigieg about employee ownership: "Senator Sanders has a proposal that will require all large companies to turn over up to 20 percent of their ownership to employees over time. Is that a good idea?"

According to the transcript, Buttigieg responded, but quickly pivoted to a different issue: "I think that employee ownership of companies is a great idea. I'm not sure it makes sense to command those companies to do it. If we really want to deliver less inequality in this country, then we've got to start with the tax code and we've got to start with investments in how people are able to live the American dream, which is in serious, serious decline."

When Senator Sanders had a chance to respond, he said, "I'm very proud of that policy. All right? What we need to do to deal with this grotesque level of income and wealth inequality is make sure that those people who are working -- you know what, Mr. Bloomberg, it wasn't you who made all that money. Maybe your workers played some role in that, as well. And it is important that those workers are able to share the benefits, also. When we have so many people who go to work every day and they feel not good about their jobs, they feel like cogs in a machine. I want workers to be able to sit on corporate boards, as well, so they can have some say over what happens to their lives."

When the moderator asked Michael Bloomberg if he agreed with Sen. Sanders, Bloomberg said, "Absolutely not. I can't think of a ways that would make it easier for Donald Trump to get re-elected than listening to this conversation. It's ridiculous. We're not going to throw out capitalism. We tried. Other countries tried that. It was called communism, and it just didn't work."

Watch the exchange here, starting at 01:17:50. See the NCEO's overview of Sen. Sander's employee ownership proposals.