Skip to main content

From a political perspective, an interesting thing about cooperation and worker ownership is its potential for cross-partisan support. To the Left, community ownership can be seen as libertarian socialism, a grassroots collectivism opposed to the narrow self-interest and exploitation by the rich. To the Right, it can be seen as an expansion of the “ownership society,” including workers in the practice and benefits of capitalism.

Mentioned in passing in Gar Alperovitz’s recent NY Times op-ed “Worker-Owners of America, Unite!” was an example of a right-wing believer in worker ownership, Indiana State Treasurer Richard Mourdock. Mourdock is running an insurgent campaign in the Republican primary against veteran moderate US Senator Richard Lugar with the backing of not only the Tea Party Express but the full complement of national pro-corporate groups: the Club for Growth, FreedomWorks and Citizens United.

But, untypically for a Tea Party Republican, Mourdock is also a champion of employee ownership through Employee Stock Ownership Plans (ESOPs). With the goal “to make Indiana the leading state in the country for employee ownership,” Mourdock created Indiana’s ESOP Initiative (IEI)[pdf], the only one of its kind in the country. With an initial $50 million investment, “The [IEI] Linked-Deposit program will allow the Treasurer’s office to link its routine purchase of CDs from Indiana’s financial institutions to the Indiana company needing capital for the ESOP transaction.” Companies in a variety of fields have used the program to help make the transition to employee ownership.

ESOPs are different from worker cooperatives in that the company retains the form of a corporation, but with the employees owning stock. The ESOP may own any percentage of stock, so the employees may co-own the company with outside investors.

Mourdock justifies the program as a way to keep American jobs (“An employee-owned company has never, never, never, never, never, ever packed up and moved to Mexico or China.”) and also points to his own experience. Mourdock was an ESOP trustee when his employer, Koester Companies, transitioned to 100% worker ownership:

“The ESOP... allowed for the expansion of the company, helped develop a sense of employee ownership throughout its workforce, and increased the stock value of the company. At the age of fifty, Treasurer Mourdock left the company confident that his retirement savings were sufficient for him to begin his own business and to pursue his goal of public service.”
Mourdock clearly sees employee ownership as helping him achieve his vision of the American dream and launching his political career: “I would not have the opportunity to serve as Indiana’s State Treasurer if I had not been involved with an ESOP early in my career.”

If Mourdock ends up in the US Senate, it will be interesting to see if he acts on his passion for employee ownership. Could he work together with pro-community ownership legislators like Sherrod Brown and Chaka Fattah to take his ESOP program national or will he join his friends in the Club for Growth in crafting economic policies that favor multinational corporations?

Cross-posted at

Originally posted to Erik of Mpls on Sat Mar 24, 2012 at 01:09 PM PDT.

Also republished by DK Lending.

Your Email has been sent.
You must add at least one tag to this diary before publishing it.

Add keywords that describe this diary. Separate multiple keywords with commas.
Tagging tips - Search For Tags - Browse For Tags


More Tagging tips:

A tag is a way to search for this diary. If someone is searching for "Barack Obama," is this a diary they'd be trying to find?

Use a person's full name, without any title. Senator Obama may become President Obama, and Michelle Obama might run for office.

If your diary covers an election or elected official, use election tags, which are generally the state abbreviation followed by the office. CA-01 is the first district House seat. CA-Sen covers both senate races. NY-GOV covers the New York governor's race.

Tags do not compound: that is, "education reform" is a completely different tag from "education". A tag like "reform" alone is probably not meaningful.

Consider if one or more of these tags fits your diary: Civil Rights, Community, Congress, Culture, Economy, Education, Elections, Energy, Environment, Health Care, International, Labor, Law, Media, Meta, National Security, Science, Transportation, or White House. If your diary is specific to a state, consider adding the state (California, Texas, etc). Keep in mind, though, that there are many wonderful and important diaries that don't fit in any of these tags. Don't worry if yours doesn't.

You can add a private note to this diary when hotlisting it:
Are you sure you want to remove this diary from your hotlist?
Are you sure you want to remove your recommendation? You can only recommend a diary once, so you will not be able to re-recommend it afterwards.
Rescue this diary, and add a note:
Are you sure you want to remove this diary from Rescue?
Choose where to republish this diary. The diary will be added to the queue for that group. Publish it from the queue to make it appear.

You must be a member of a group to use this feature.

Add a quick update to your diary without changing the diary itself:
Are you sure you want to remove this diary?
(The diary will be removed from the site and returned to your drafts for further editing.)
(The diary will be removed.)
Are you sure you want to save these changes to the published diary?

Comment Preferences

  •  So we finally win the Treaty of Detroit? (7+ / 0-)

    This is basically what was on the table in the negotiations between the UAW and the Big Three way back in 1950. The union wanted seats on the board of directors, to have a more direct say in the running of the business. Walter Reuther, in perhaps the biggest mistake of his career, gave that up against the background of the Communist witch hunt and settled for better pay and free medical.

    It's probably too much to hope that Mourdock would actually follow through with this, but maybe he's honest enough or crazy enough to actually bite the hand that feeds him. Anyway, it's out of my hands, since I am neither a Republican nor a citizen of Indiana, but it will be an interesting thing to watch.

  •  Ask Wal-Mart how that works. They have (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    nicolemm, Dirtandiron

    stock option programs for their workers.  Yeah, they "own" a piece of the company, but they still get treated like shit.

    "Nothing in all the world is more dangerous than sincere ignorance and conscientious stupidity." --M. L. King "You can't fix stupid" --Ron White -6.00, -5.18

    by zenbassoon on Sat Mar 24, 2012 at 05:18:49 PM PDT

Subscribe or Donate to support Daily Kos.

Click here for the mobile view of the site