Vermont’s two U.S. senators have introduced legislation that would incorporate Vermont ideas on a national level to spur the creation of more employee-owned businesses. Sens. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., and Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., along with freshman New Hampshire Democrat Maggie Hassan, introduced two bills late last week aimed at expanding the number of small employee-owned ventures.
“By expanding employee ownership and participation, we can create stronger companies in Vermont and throughout this country, prevent job losses and improve working conditions for struggling employees,” Sanders said in a statement. “Simply put, when employees have an ownership stake in their company, they will not ship their own jobs to China to increase their profits, they will be more productive, and they will earn a better living.”
In a statement, Leahy agreed with Sanders, saying “growth and good-paying jobs in these high-performing companies have benefited employee owners, their companies and our communities.”
One of the bills — dubbed the Work Act — borrows the model of the Vermont Employee Ownership Center, a nonprofit that helps businesses facilitate the transfer of ownership to their employees. In 2016, the center helped two companies become employee-owned, while three others became worker cooperatives. Don Jamison, the executive director of the Vermont center, said congressional Democrats have been looking to pass this legislation since the 1990s. He said federal support would prove crucial for employee ownership centers across the country, adding that the VEOC “survives on a modest state grant and sponsorships, mostly from employee-owned companies.”