New Report Proposes Giving Workers the “Right to First Refusal”
by Karen Kahn
Giving workers the opportunity to buy their companies when they are up for sale, through the “right of first refusal” is the aim of policies proposed in a new report, The Right to Own, from The Next System Project of The Democracy Collaborative. Authored by Policy Associate Peter Gowan, the report makes the case that a “right of first refusal” could significantly scale employee ownership. It turns out this idea is a widely popular one, according to recent polling.
To assess popular opinion, The Democracy Collaborative, in partnership with YouGov Blue, conducted a national poll, in which participants were asked, “Would you support or oppose a policy requiring business owners to allow their workers a chance to buy the business if it is being sold or closed?” The results were remarkable.
Of respondents, 69 percent expressed support for the concept, while only 10 percent expressed opposition.
When broken down by political party, 78 percent of Democrats supported the proposal, as did 66 percent of Republicans. These results reinforce the sense among advocates that in Congress there is a longstanding bipartisan consensus on employee ownership. Last year, one of the few bipartisan legislative achievements was the passage of the Main Street Employee Ownership Act, which mandated that the Small Business Administration integrate employee ownership into its work.
When broken down by political party, 78 percent of Democrats supported the proposal, as did 66 percent of Republicans.
Notably, respondents were less enthusiastic about tax incentives for owners who transfer ownership to employees, though these benefits have been part of the tax code since the Reagan era. Of respondents, 55 percent supported tax subsidies for owners who sell to employees, compared to 69 percent who supported the right of first refusal.
The survey also broke down responses by age, finding the most solid support among older respondents. Among those over the age of 65, 81 percent supported the right of first refusal, while among those 18–29 years old, 59 percent supported the proposal. However, among the younger group, 15 percent responded “not sure,” indicating that this group does not yet feel well enough informed about employee ownership to express an opinion.
Indicating widespread support across the country for employee ownership, the survey is a hopeful barometer of the desire among U.S. workers for a more just economy that moves us toward ecological sustainability and shared prosperity.
Karen Kahn provides communications consulting and editorial support for Fifty by Fifty.
Fifty by Fifty, an initiative of @Democracy Collab, is working to transform the U.S. economy by growing employee ownership. Join our campaign, and we’ll send our monthly newsletter, filled with great company stories, right to your inbox.