October 4, 2022

How the California Employee Ownership Act Became Law

NCEO founder and senior staff member

The passage of the California Employee Ownership Act, the provisions of which I discussed in a recent blog post, has lessons for anyone wanting to move employee ownership forward in a state. We often think of legislation as the result of lobbying efforts by well-funded and/or politically connected groups. But the California Employee Ownership Act was the result of one employee ownership advocate calling one state legislator (Senator Josh Becker) and explaining the benefits of employee ownership in closing racial wealth and equity gaps in California. Senator Becker, coming from an entrepreneurial background, grasped the idea immediately and asked what he could do to promote more employee ownership in California. With his staff, he set up a meeting with a group of worker coop and ESOP advocates (including the NCEO) to come up with ideas. That group recruited additional supporters, and once the bill was drafted, these supporters lined up other supporters to contact their legislators (the NCEO was not involved in the lobbying part of this process). The bill moved through both houses without dissent. While the idea did not simply sell itself, it came pretty close.

People can do this in other states as well. State legislators are often very open to these conversations with constituents and often looking for ideas they can move forward. An idea that works and that is as nonpartisan (or truly bipartisan) as this is can be especially appealing. There were no dissenting votes on this bill in California! The same coalition that helped with the California bill can help in any state. The NCEO has a compendium of all state legislation that has become law or is being actively considered. You can also contact me ([email protected]) to get a memo explaining the various things states can do and the arguments for them.