May 26, 2021

Pro-Employee Ownership Legislation Dropped from Senate Bill

Executive Director

The U.S. Innovation and Competition Act (formerly titled the Endless Frontier Act (S. 1260) has now passed the Senate. As it was being considered, Senators Bernie Sanders (I-VT) and Jerry Moran (R-KS) submitted an amendment that would incorporate a version of the WORK Act (the Worker Ownership, Readiness, and Knowledge Act). The amendment was never acted on, however. The WORK Act, versions of which have been proposed by Sen. Sanders in prior Congresses (see S. 1081 from 2017, for example), would create a $50 million fund to be disbursed over four years for outreach to promote employee ownership through employee ownership centers sponsored or contracted by individual states. An office within the Department of Labor would create an “employee ownership and participation” initiative to coordinate and provide technical assistance for the program. A state, or an organization designated by a state, could receive a maximum grant of $330,000 per year, which would be increased by 5% per year, from 2022 through 2026. The idea of federal support for state-level employee ownership has been promoted by several think tanks, and has roots in an idea raised by the NCEO’s Corey Rosen in 1986 and initially introduced by Senator James Sasser that year.

S. 1260 is a bipartisan bill that is a reaction to non-U.S. entities, especially China, purchasing U.S. businesses. It would increase “investments in the discovery, creation, and manufacturing of technology critical to U.S. national security and economic competitiveness.”

State employee ownership centers now exist in several states, but only three (Colorado, Vermont, and Massachusetts) receive substantial state support. State outreach efforts have proven to be a highly cost-effective way to introduce the idea of employee ownership to business owners.

There is a chance may be proposed in the House as it takes up the bill.