April 29, 2016


Chobani's Shared Capitalism Bonanza : The Greek yogurt company just awarded its full-time employees a bunch of valuable shares in the company. Should more companies follow suit? (Dwyer Gunn, 4/29/16, Pacific Standard)

While Ulukaya's gesture is unique in its magnitude, the United States is actually an international leader in profit sharing and employee ownership programs, both of which fall under the umbrella of what economists describe as "shared capitalism." According to research conducted by economists Douglas L. Kruse, Richard B. Freeman, and Joseph R. Blasi as part of the National Bureau of Economic Research's Shared Capitalism Research Project, 45 percent of private sector, for-profit employees in the U.S. participate in some kind of shared capitalism program (either a profit sharing, gain sharing, employee ownership, or stock option program).

"This is the sort of thing where you can get everyone from Democrats to Tea Party Republicans to agree."

As inequality has increased in recent years, a growing number of economists, including Freeman, have also suggested that shared capitalism might be a way to more equitably distribute the gains of the one percent. The idea has caught on in the political sphere too: Last July, Hillary Clinton announced her support for a tax credit for businesses that adapt profit sharing programs.

"If we believe that an increase in the capital share is a major part of this inequality, then the question becomes what can we do to have the capital ownership widely distributed?" Freeman told me when I interviewed him earlier this year for an article on wage stagnation. "And that either means workers owning part of the companies they work for, or it means profit sharing, which means they own part of the profit stream."

Of course, there's another reason it makes sense for companies to get into the shared capitalism business: It more closely unifies the interests of workers with the interests of management. In a shared capitalism model, everyone benefits when workers are more productive and innovative. Ulukaya alluded to this when he told the Times that, now, his workers will be "working to build the company even more and building their future at the same time."

Posted by at April 29, 2016 6:38 PM