Job quality agenda for the new administration

A job quality agenda for the Biden-Harris administration

A central benefit of broad-based employee ownership is its power to drastically improve job quality. Studies have shown that workers at employee-owned firms tend to earn higher wages and enjoy greater job security, on top of profit-sharing or increased retirement savings. They also have a voice in the future of their companies as well as the pride of ownership — things that can turn what for some might have felt like a dead-end job into a fulfilling, high-quality one.

In our work, we often hear accolades from employee-owners like Anastasia Torres of California Solar Electric Company, who said, “Owning a company with a bunch of people I like is great. This is one of the best things that’s happened to me and one of the best opportunities that I’ve had to grow in a company.”

That’s why we are glad to see employee ownership prominently included among the policy recommendations published recently by The Aspen Institute.

A Job Quality Agenda for the Next Administration was written by The Aspen Institute Job Quality Fellows, a diverse group of practitioners that includes Project Equity co-founder Alison Lingane. In it, the Aspen Fellows urge policymakers to build an agenda for economic recovery focused on job quality and economic inclusion, and to act to create meaningful change in the lives and livelihoods of all working people.

The employee ownership recommendations in the Job Quality Agenda are:

Promote employee ownership and worker cooperative models, which have been shown to have a positive association with quality jobs, by offering technical assistance and access to appropriate financing to support transitions to employee ownership, as well as new business development that includes some form of employee ownership. 

Funds could be made available to state employee ownership centers, experienced nonprofit organizations, and interested Small Business Development Centers to raise awareness about different employee ownership models among small- to medium-sized businesses and to extend technical assistance and facilitate financing.

In their recommendations, the Aspen Fellows write that:

Americans see virtue in work and believe hard work should offer a pathway to economic security. But decades of lagging wages, eroding benefits, declining employment security, and insufficient attention to addressing barriers to equity and inclusion mean that too many jobs are not a pathway to an economically stable life. This inequality of economic opportunity and decline in job quality is the central issue leading to the erosion of shared opportunity and economic prosperity. To restore the ideal of work as the pathway to the American Dream, our economy needs more quality jobs.

To restore the ideal of work as the pathway to the American Dream, our economy needs more quality jobs.

The arrival of a new administration is a chance to determine our priorities for the future, including how (or whether) we, as a nation, will make the dream of shared prosperity a reality. On the Biden-Harris administration’s list of priorities for immediate action, the economy and strengthening of small businesses are front and center:

The President will also work with Congress to pass the American Rescue Plan to change the course of the pandemic, build a bridge towards economic recovery, and invest in racial justice. And, he will build our economy back better from the pandemic and create millions of jobs by strengthening small businesses and investing in the jobs of the future.

One encouraging sign that the Biden-Harris Administration is committed to bringing this vision to pass: they have nominated Boston mayor Marty Walsh for Secretary of Labor and Isabel Guzman, current director of California’s Office of the Small Business Advocate, to head the Small Business Administration. They also appointed economist Jared Bernstein to the White House Council of Economic Advisors. All three are vocal advocates of broad-based employee ownership and its positive impact on job quality.

Of course, employee ownership is only one component of creating a more equitable and just economy. The Aspen Institute Fellows put forth a number of important and actionable recommendations to help the new administration in its economic mission.

With so many people sacrificing daily in their “essential worker” jobs, and countless others out of work, we need our policymakers to enact measures that deliver real help. At Project Equity, we are glad to see the powerful work of The Aspen Institute and hopeful that our new administration will make good on its promise to strengthen our economy for all.


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