I’m always up for a party! After all, it’s the perfect time to celebrate our employee-owners and our employee stock ownership plan (ESOP) during the annual ESOP Month every October. But this month is also a time to reinvigorate our ongoing efforts to advocate for our people and for ESOPs around the country.
It’s this constant work on the local, state and national level that helps ensure our ESOP is sustainable and thriving for generations to come. We’re proud to work with advocacy organizations nationwide to advance legislation and support elected officials working to strengthen employee ownership.
In fact, we’re closely watching one recent piece of legislation – the “Promotion and Expansion of Private Employee Ownership Act” – which would eliminate many of the barriers companies and employee-owners face when trying to establish a new ESOP or even expand the owners’ investment in an S corporation. The bipartisan bill is currently working its way through committee in the U.S. Senate, and companion legislation has also been introduced in the House of Representatives.
Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-OR-3) co-sponsored the House bill and emphasized its importance:
“With growing wealth inequality and generations of Americans worried about how they can retire comfortably, employee-ownership is more important now than ever. I have seen firsthand the benefit of Employee Stock Ownership Plans in my community and in communities across the country. By increasing productivity and worker retention while improving retirement security, this legislation is something employers and employees alike can get behind.”
The legislation would do several important things for the future of ESOPs, including:
- Create a new “Employee Ownership Advocate” at the Department of Labor to assist companies and review ESOP regulations.
- Solidify advocacy for ESOPs from development through all stages of growth and maturity.
- Incentivize owners of S corporations to sell their stock to an ESOP by providing tax-deferral benefits.
- Provide technical assistance for companies looking to create an ESOP.
- Allow small businesses that become ESOPs to retain SBA certification.
Rep. Mike Kelly (R-PA-16) serves on the House Ways and Means Committee and co-sponsored the bill with Rep. Blumenauer. He writes about the clear benefits to both workers and management:
“By expanding Employee Stock Ownership Plans (ESOPs), we can put more hardworking Americans on the path to financial prosperity and a secure retirement. This bipartisan, bicameral plan is a win-win for workers and businesses: It allows small- and medium-sized businesses to include employee ownership in the compensation package, and ESOPs often retain more employees as a result.”
Building bridges for stronger allies
This legislation is a good illustration of the positive work that can come out of advocacy efforts being made across the country by mature ESOP companies like ours as well as advocacy organizations, such as ESCA (Employee-owned S Corporations of America), which serves as the voice in Washington, D.C., for employee-owned S corporations like Emery Sapp (as well as more than 240,000 employee-owners across the U.S.).
In fact, we were excited to send some of our people to ESCA’s 2023 Federal Policy Conference & Lobby Day at the end of September. The event allows employee-owners an opportunity to meet and hear from top decision-makers in Congress about potential changes that might impact ESOPs.
But our work goes beyond just these events. We’re always looking for opportunities to work with our state representatives in our home regions — inviting them to job sites, giving them an opportunity to meet our employee-owners, telling our stories, and demonstrating firsthand the incredible value of ESOPs and how they benefit their local constituents.
Because our focus is always on our people first, we’re always building relationships with legislators who understand the benefits of ESOPs. We want to align ourselves with elected officials – regardless of political affiliation – who can truly move ESOP progress forward. It’s another reason we’re excited to see so many members of Congress – including Republicans, Democrats, and Independents – lining up to support this important bill.
Celebrating while we’re advocating
When we all recognize ESOP Month this October, we should certainly do a lot of celebrating. As a well-managed ESOP like we have here at Emery Sapp, we’re not answering to a handful of private owners, to some private equity firm, or to the whims of public shareholders; instead, we all have a say (and stake) in the success of not only the company but also our own wealth. This is the best opportunity to “own your destiny.”
Celebrating isn’t where it ends, though. Advocacy is one of the primary ways we continue to sustain our own ESOP and ensure others around the country have the same tremendous opportunity that we do.
It’s important work, and I’m proud to be a part of it.
Amy Allen is the chief administrative officer and general counsel for Emery Sapp, overseeing all human resources and legal needs for the Emery Sapp Construction family of companies. With almost 25 years of experience in the legal and HR fields, she provides strategic leadership and risk management guidance and brings a passion for aligning the company’s unique culture with its vision.