Leaders from Around the Country Strategize to Transform Local Economies, Driving Path to Equity for Workers

May 16, 2023
May 16, 2023 Noraly Sainz

Leaders from Around the Country Strategize to Transform Local Economies, Driving Path to Equity for Workers

Director Karen Suarez represented Uplift San Bernardino and the Making Hope Happen Foundation at the recent Employee Ownership Equity Summit. The convening brought leaders from around the country to Oakland to connect, learn and work on practical strategies to harness the power of employee ownership to transform communities. Suarez was one of 145 leaders from around the country invited to participate.

The Employee Ownership Equity Summit is an annual three-day convening hosted by Project Equity, a national leader in the movement to expand employee ownership. Select participants from the financial, nonprofit, government/policy and business sectors were invited to discuss and explore the issues of job quality, business retention and equitable economics. They shared ideas and worked on action plans for leveraging broad-based employee ownership as a tool to help address these issues.

The event was a mix of speakers sharing their experience with employee ownership as a strategy for building equitable communities, practical information sharing and regional working groups. Speakers included Mayors Melvin Carter of St. Paul, Minnesota and Jesse Arreguín of Berkeley, California, Tara Lynn Gray, Director of the California Office of the Small Business Advocate and Ben Hecht of the McKnight Foundation.

Employee ownership—where company ownership is transferred to employees for a fair price—is a business model that builds worker wealth as they become owners. This model takes several forms—from employee stock ownership to worker-owned cooperatives—and on average, employee-owned businesses offer better wages.

Employee ownership increases job satisfaction and worker retention, which helps build more resilient communities. Communities with employee-owned businesses experience fewer layoffs, especially during recessions. Moreover, as we’ve seen in American towns from Long Beach to St. Paul, employee ownership can reduce spending while also reducing wealth inequality.

Employee ownership has the potential to be a driving force in building generational wealth, helping to replace longstanding racial and gender inequity with tangible, material growth. When employees become owners, they profit from their labor, and household income can be as much as 92% higher for employee-owners early in their careers.

“We are at an inflection point in this country. Half of all privately-held employer businesses are owned by baby boomers nearing retirement. This silver tsunami represents the greatest wealth transfer in American history. Our Employee Ownership Equity Summit seizes on this opportunity,” stated Evan Edwards, Chief Executive Officer at Project Equity. “We brought together the key players from around the country to connect, engage and work together to leverage employee ownership to transform local economies and build a path to equity for workers across the nation.”

Seen here: Tara Lynn Gray, Director, Office of the Small Business Advocate and Uplift San Bernardino Director Karen Suarez.

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