Senator Bernie Sanders (I-Vermont) is rolling out two new policies aimed at giving workers stock and decision-making power in their workplaces.
On Tuesday, The Washington Post reported that Sanders’ 2020 campaign is in the early stages of rolling out two new bold policy proposals — one that would transfer corporate stock to workers, and one that would put workers on the boards of their companies.
If Sanders’ plan were to become law, companies would be required to transfer a certain amount of stock to a separate fund, which would then pay out annual dividends to employees. This could result in a dramatic increase in the wealth of workers at large companies whose stock continues to soar, like Amazon, Apple, and Alphabet (parent company of Google). It’s not known as of this writing how much stock would be transferred each year, or what the dividend would be, as the finer details of Sanders’ proposal are still being workshopped.
Sen. Sanders’ call to give workers representation on corporate boards is not a new one — Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-Massachusetts) has called for a similar policy (known as “co-determination”) in her own presidential campaign. And Warren borrowed the policy from Germany, which has had workers represented on company boards for years. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand (D-New York), another Democrat running for the presidency in 2020, has also floated the idea.
The idea of workers controlling the means of production is a core tenet of socialism, though Sanders himself identifies more as a Democratic socialist than a traditional socialist. The Vermont senator defines Democratic socialism as a system in which all citizens of a country are provided with a strong social safety net, like guaranteed universal health care, paid parental and sick leave, and free public higher education, funded by higher taxes on corporations and the wealthy.
However, worker-owned companies aren’t a new thing in the United States. Publix supermarkets, for example, is the largest employee-owned company in the United States, and all of its estimated 190,000 employees are eligible to own stock in the company after a year on the job. The employee-owned model appears to work for Publix, as it ranked as the fourth-most profitable grocery store chain in the U.S. in 2017.
Tom Cahill is a contributor for Grit Post who covers political and economic news. He lives in Bend, Oregon. Send him an email at tom DOT v DOT cahill AT gmail DOT com.