Want equality? Own the business

By Nancy Churchill

A century ago servants quarters were built several steps below the family suites, to remind them daily of their lowly “place” in life.

Today workers are systematically kept “in their place” with low pay and lack of benefits, with little voice and no power to change anything without strikes and protests.

Our democracy supposedly insists that everyone is created equal, but low pay stifles economic growth and vastly increases inequality. It’s all about looking down on people, yanking the rug out from under them, then blaming them for their plight.

Facebook meme: “Why are you angry about fast food workers making two bucks more an hour when your CEO makes 400 TIMES what you do? It’s in the bosses’ interests to keep your anger directed downward, at the poor people who are just trying to get by, like you, rather than at themselves, sucking the wealth out of your pocket every way they can.”

From Josh Bivens, epi.org, September 10, 2015, we learn that “since 2000, the share of income generated by corporations going to workers’ wages declined by 6.8 percentage points, from 82.3 percent to 75.5 percent. Had the share remained the same over this time, labor compensation today would be high enough to give each U.S. worker a $3,770 raise.” This decline “has become a significant contributor to the growing gap between economy-wide productivity and typical workers’ pay….”

So much for “trickle-down.” And communities wonder why they are struggling.

In Saving Capitalism, Robert Reich points out on page 197 that “CEOs do not create jobs. Their customers create jobs by buying more of what their companies have to sell, giving the companies cause to expand and hire. So pushing companies to put less money into the hands of their CEOs and more into the hands of their average employees creates more purchasing power among people who will buy, and therefore [creates] more jobs.”

As the real job creators, aren’t workers equally worthy of business ownership? Seriously, could anything be more democratic than all fast food workers owning shares in the companies they work for? As co-owners, they, like CEOs, would have a say in their own pay. They’d help determine their benefits, what the rules are for scheduling, and time off.

Workers would pay themselves higher wages, giving them more pride and responsibility in their jobs and more engagement in their communities. Attrition would decline, saving on re-hiring costs. And instead of being subsidized by the social safety net, as they are now, workers would pay more taxes, have more purchasing power that would help grow other worker-owned businesses in the area.

Because a better economy is not about simply creating more jobs, it’s about creating more jobs that pay livable wages.

What better way to do that than with worker-ownership. If workers owned their workplaces, that would strengthen Main Street, not some giant corporation scamming its workers and stashing its profits in Panama to avoid paying taxes.

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