Laura Flanders interviews Christopher Mackin, the founder of Ownership Associates, an advisory firm for broad-based employee ownership based in Cambridge, MA. Mackin is also an Adjunct Lecturer at the Rutgers School of Management and Labor Relations and a member of the core faculty of the Harvard Trade Union Program based at Harvard Law School. See a previous guest post by Mackin on corporate governance and employee ownership, Hobby Lobby and Rented Humans. I met Mackin about 35 years ago when we were both graduate students. He was at Harvard; I was at Boston College.
In this video, Flanders and Mackin explore employee ownership and, more broadly, democratic workplaces. Mackin points out:
We need to be looking at a diversified economy. If capital is winning this race against labor, which it is, one question we might ask is how do we include more people in capital and not just look at engineering the wage side of the equation? And we needn’t restrict ourselves to the workplace.
As opposed to advocating for exclusively worker-owned cooperatives, Mackin defines democratic workspaces more broadly to include companies with robust employee stock ownership plans (ESOPs).
The profit is going to the wrong people, it is going to the speculators, it is going to the people betting on horses, It is not going to the people who are actually making the profit.
Mackin focuses not only on startups but also on healthy businesses owned by individuals or partners who want to retire and may be willing to sell their business. He can help that transition using tax advantaged mechanisms such as ESOP trusts. Mackin’s efforts have led to many successes. I love the fact that Mackin brought up community ownership of sports teams. I think if we had more teams like the Green Bay Packers it would be huge as an example. Imagine a whole league of employee and/or community owned teams. Here’s a quote from Ralph Nader on that idea:
The fundamental problem in pro sports is that we’ve given free reign to owners through a self-regulated monopoly system — including anti-trust exemptions — which allows owners to pursue a profit-at-all-costs agenda at the expense of fans. This system has resulted in owners playing one city off another in the quest for new taxpayer-funded stadiums and other freeloading. A community ownership model, like the Green Bay Packers’, works. It’s a better way to structure and administer professional sports. It should become an optional mainstay of sports policy in this country.
Personally, while I wish Mackin well in forming companies that are fully worker owned, I’m looking more for publicly traded companies with substantial employee ownership, open book management and participation in decision-making. If you know of examples, please share them with me.
GRITtv is a new resource for me. For more on worker-owned cooperatives as a concept, check out GRITtv interviews with Miquela Craytor, Maria Arroyo, Hilary Abell, and Chris Michael. For more on specific cooperative businesses, watch their profiles of the Beyond Care Child Care Co-op in Brooklyn and Green Worker Co-operative Academy in the Bronx.