Small Step Forward on Employee Ownership Provisions in WORK Act
The WORK Act seemed to be a major win for employee ownership advocates. The law directed the Department of Labor (DOL) to create an Employee Ownership Initiative office to provide education on employee ownership (which it has now done) and authorized $50 million in funding over five years, starting in fiscal year (FY) 2025, for state employee ownership outreach and education programs. Although the WORK Act authorized the expenditures for the state programs, funding comes through a separate appropriation process. On July 27, the Senate Appropriations Committee passed a $13.5 billion FY 2024 DOL appropriation bill that says nothing about employee ownership in the bill itself, although the accompanying report directs the DOL to create the Employee Ownership Initiative and to issue guidelines on ESOP valuation (something the DOL has also already committed to do). The $9.8 billion House FY 2024 DOL appropriation bill also has no provisions on employee ownership; unlike the Senate report, the House committee's bill summary does not mention employee ownership. Because the DOL has already committed to the programs described in the Senate bill, it is unclear whether what the House did matters.