For a special holiday edition of 3p Weekend, this week we're focusing on companies that embody the spirit of July Fourth by formalizing their employees' independence.
Once a niche phenomenon, the number of worker-owned businesses is growing by about 6 percent per year in the U.S. The number of employee-owned companies grew from 1,600 in 1975 to around 11,000 in 2013, accounting for 12 percent of the private-sector workforce.
Sometimes criticized as "not quite capitalism," Employee Stock Ownership Plans (ESOPs) are picking up steam as a way to center companies around worker collaboration, rather than the pressure of external stakeholders. So, as we light up our fireworks and let our flags fly, we salute these seven companies that took a chance on independence -- and reaped the rewards.
"Founded in 1986, the Recology ESOP is intended to fuel our drive toward excellent service, customer satisfaction, efficiency and innovation," Recology says on its website. "It is a major reason why Recology is consistently able to attract and retain the industry's best people at every level of the company."
"This reorganization was made possible by the strength of our franchisees and the commitment of our employees," CEO Rob McCourt said in a 2011 press release. "Their collective efforts significantly improved our operating cash flow and overall business results."
"The belief that every voice is central has sustained us over the years," the company says on its website. "We have never wavered from the original vision of a democratic workplace. This commitment has made it possible to constantly reinvent ourselves, while remaining faithful to our political vision, and our belief in good, honest food."
As he put it in a statement on the company's website: "It was just the right thing to do. I have people that have worked with me for over 30 years and each and every one of them deserve this."
The company operated an ESOP for several years, with employees owning a 41 percent stake as of 2012 and CEO and co-founder Kim Jordan retaining the majority share. But in 2013, Jordan sold off her remaining stake to the ESOP -- making the brewery 100 percent employee-owned.
“There are few times in life where you get to make choices that will have multi-generational impact – this is one of those times,” Jordan said in a 2013 press release. “We have always had a high involvement ownership culture and this allows us to take that to the next logical level." She intends to stay onboard as CEO, and you'd be hard-pressed to find any negative impacts of her decision. The brewery will expand to the East Coast this year — with the construction of a $175 million facility in downtown Ashville, N.C.
Know of another employee-owned company you'd like to give a thumbs-up this Fourth of July? Tell us about it in the comments section.
Image credit: Flickr/tacker
Based in Philadelphia, Mary Mazzoni is a senior editor at TriplePundit. She is also a freelance journalist who frequently writes about sustainability, corporate social responsibility and clean tech. Her work has appeared in the Philadelphia Daily News, the Huffington Post, Sustainable Brands, Earth911 and the Daily Meal. You can follow her on Twitter @mary_mazzoni.
Mary Mazzoni, Senior Editor, has written for TriplePundit since 2013. She is also Managing Editor of CR Magazine and the Editor of 3p’s Sponsored Series. Mazzoni’s recent work can be found in Conscious Company, AlterNet and VICE’s Motherboard. She is based in Philadelphia.