Chapter 6: Buy them out: employee-owned co-ops paying a living wage
Proofs of government by the people, of the people, for the people are as rare upon the ground as sightings of the golden-cheeked warbler. The proposition that all men are created equal no longer wins the hearts and minds of America’s downwardly mobile working classes – employed and unemployed, lower, lower-middle, middle, upper-middle, adjunct, and retired.
– Lewis H. Lapham (Harper’s, Nov 2015)
THE CAPITALIST FREE MARKET CORRECTION ACT (CaFMaC)
* * CaFMaC Fixes [almost] Everything * *
Section 13. (of the Capitalist Free Market Corrections Act – CaFMaC)
Plain English for the Voting Citizen: 1) Co-op employees will own their co-op. 2) Other than their own employees’ shares, co-ops will not issue stocks because vile speculating on stocks in a stock market is dead. 3) Every employee high and low will have an equal stake in the co-op and its success. 4) They will collectively decide how to run their co-op business. 5) Changing the USA’s economic system so that employees are treated fairly and paid a fair living wage will eliminate the need for labor unions that grew out of the need to protect employees from their own corporate employers. 6) The very idea of corporations is long obsolete and way overdue to be replaced by better ideas. 7) You can’t be politically free unless you’re first free from economic poverty.
The Congressional blather version: Every Co-op doing business within the United States, its territories and possessions shall be owned by its employees. Under penalty of law, no co-op shall issue “shares” of its value to any person other than its own employees. Except as provided in this Act, the appraised monetary value of each co-op’s assets at the time of the co-op’s formation shall be assigned in equal portions among all persons employed by the co-op at that time, and every share shall be equal to the penny regardless of employee rank, so that all employees of every rank may commence their new co-op with equal ownership status and equal incentive. Thereafter the equally portioned ownership of a co-op’s cash value by its employees shall rise or fall equally with the fortunes of the co-op’s total value resulting from the employees’ collective acumen in conducting the co-op’s business. Except as provided in this Act, the employee owners of a co-op shall freely decide among themselves upon the organizational structure of their co-op and the methods whereby the co-op’s business activities shall be conducted, and no governmental or other entity may inhibit or interfere with their inherent mutual right to so choose and explore innovative new forms of business and managerial/supervisory/production methods.
With this measure it is the dual intent of Congress to 1) extend the vitalizing incentive of enlightened self interest and the prospect of self betterment equally to as many U.S. workers as possible, 2) to end the employer abuses which have made employees feel compelled to establish labor unions for their protection from the abusers, and 3) to forever end the cyclic and detrimental social impacts of the profit-motivated stockholder-based model of commercial enterprise that originated centuries ago in the unique circumstances of the extreme economic and social stratification of European feudal society’s emergence into the industrial revolution, and that model’s inevitable and never-ending production of unequal extremes in distribution of wealth across modern civil society wherein all citizens are said to born equal and with equal right to liberty and the pursuit of happiness, herewith recognizing in law that political freedom is elusive unless sustained by reasonable economic adequacy, to the common good of the nation and of equal treatment and opportunity for all U.S. citizens.
Section 14. (of the Capitalist Free Market Corrections Act – CaFMaC)
Plain English for the Voting Citizen: To be an employee-owner of a co-op in the USA, you must 1) be a United States citizen and 2) live close enough to commute from home to work every day.
The Congressional blather version: All employee/owners of a co-op shall be legal citizens of the United States who reside within a distance from the employer co-op’s facility(s) that is feasible for commuting to and from work by ground travel on a daily basis. No person unable to meet these conditions shall in any way own any part of a co-op, and co-op employees who may be assigned to work at home shall equally comply with this commuting-distance rule.
Section 15. (of the Capitalist Free Market Corrections Act – CaFMaC)
Plain English for the Voting Citizen: 1) People who owned stocks of the corporations that got chopped up into employee-owned co-ops will be bought out by the co-ops. 2) The buyout may take up to ten years, but these former investors will get back the money they had invested in the old unfair way of doing business in the USA.
The Congressional blather version: Stockholders shall be bought out. In instances where a co-op(s) is formed by conversion of a corporation or other stockholder entity, the appraised monetary value of corporate assets at time of conversion shall not include stocks owned as investments by stockholders who, by virtue their stock ownership, have contributed indirectly to producing the good(s) and/or service(s) that were produced directly by the corporation’s employees. All such stockholders’ stocks shall be bought out by the co-op(s) over a period of ten (10) years, based on the precedent of ten years being the length of time agreed upon for the great American tobacco base buyout, and, as with the tobacco buyout, the amount paid to stockholders shall be the pro rata face value of the stocks on the date the co-op(s) was formed, plus one/tenth percent (1/10%) interest as incentive to complete the buyout as quickly as possible within the ten years.
Labour was the first price, the original purchase – money that was paid for all things. It was not by gold or by silver, but by labour, that all wealth of the world was originally purchased.
– Adam Smith (1723-1790), Economist
Section 16. (of the Capitalist Free Market Corrections Act – CaFMaC)
Plain English for the Voting Citizen: 1) It is illegal and disloyal to move an American job to any other country. 2) Any organization that makes money by selling anything in the USA will keep all (meaning ALL) its jobs in the USA.
The Congressional blather version: Moving U.S. jobs abroad is hereby abolished, prohibited, declared a felony and prima facie evidence of disloyalty to the United States of America and to its citizens. If, in consequence of this Act, any domestic or foreign owner(s), stockholder(s), officer(s), manager(s) or other agent(s) or controller(s) of a corporation, including multinational and other international corporate entities of unclear or ambiguous national registry or allegiance, or any component or combination of these, are found to be intending or attempting to withdraw their business operation(s) from the United States to a foreign country(s), and if those operations in any way encompass physical plant, assets, jobs and workers who and which are physically resident within the United States, then the Department of Defense shall immediately secure such physical plant and assets, thereby ensuring the local jobs are retained locally within the United States, pending their expeditious conversion to a U.S. worker-owned co-op(s) as provided in this Act.
SUMMARY of Sections 14-16
Plain English for the Voting Citizen: 1) Dear American Citizens: Your Congress intends to make sure that from now on all commerce going on inside the USA benefits the common good of the whole nation and treats all American citizens fairly and equally. 2) We’re going to stop sending our jobs overseas and stop giving the lion’s share of business profits to absentee investors who don’t lift a hand, have no personal stake in the business’s jobs and don’t care how poorly its employees are paid. 3) Paying out large shares of profits as dividends to investors for no better reason than their intent to make free money without working for it is a dumb outdated system that benefits only those who have money to invest in the first place and does precious little for anybody else. 4) Attention all other nations: If you’re smart you’ll do what we’re doing, but that’s your business.
The Congressional blather version: With these three measures it is the intent of Congress, for the benefit of the common good of the nation and of equal treatment and opportunity for all U.S. citizens, to abolish and prohibit absentee ownership of U.S. commerce, industry and means of production by non-stakeholders both foreign and domestic who have no reason or incentive to place the nation’s public interest above their personal interest, and to forever terminate the transfer of American jobs, salaries and wealth to non-citizens and nations outside the United States. Hereby acknowledging in law that stockholders’ investment ownership of stock produces only the artificial wealth of money manipulated for profit by stock trading on a stock exchange while producing no tangible product of real value, all other nations are encouraged to enact comparable measures in circumstances where inordinate shares of their national assets and wealth may be owned or controlled by persons who are not their own citizens or by internationally organized entities that are not subject to their own national jurisdiction and are beholden to no nation.
Section 17. (of the Capitalist Free Market Corrections Act – CaFMaC)
Plain English for the Voting Citizen: 1) A co-op buying out former stockholders will treat the buyout as an ordinary cost of doing business. 2) Sister co-ops that originated from the breakup of a single corporation may choose to team up to ease the cost of the buyout. 3) After a buyout is completed employee-owners will decide whether the new surpluses go to increase their paychecks, to reinvest in the co-op, and/or whatever.
The Congressional blather version: Until a new co-op completes the stockholder buyout process, the cost of buying back said stocks shall be accounted as a business expense, payable from the co-op’s ordinary income, alongside the other costs of daily operations, salaries, capital reinvestment and other ordinary business expenses. Such buyout payments may be shared proportionately among multiple co-ops that were originated by subdivision of a single corporation. After buyout is completed, the funds thus freed to surplus shall be thereafter reapportioned 1) to co-op employees in the form of increased salaries and/or fringe benefits, and 2) to capital reinvestment, as the co-op employee-owners may decide.
With this measure it is the intent of Congress to finalize conversion from the traditional stockholder model to the incentive-based cooperative-owner model, using a reimbursement method fair to both co-op employee/owners and to absentee stockholders who have wealth invested in the traditional model, to the benefit of the common good of the nation and of equal treatment and opportunity for all U.S. citizens.
Section 18. (of the Capitalist Free Market Corrections Act – CaFMaC)
Plain English for the Voting Citizen: 1) Across the USA we will from now on have a Living Wage that pays enough for a decent living, and damn the “minimum” wage which is hereby minimally dead and dead means dead. 2) Every (EVERY) employee will be paid enough to afford food, clothing, shelter and other basic needs wherever s/he lives in the USA. 3) Woe be to any turkey who tries to underpay a Living Wage.
The Congressional blather version: The concept of “minimum wage” is hereby abolished in the United States and is replaced by the concept “adequate living wage (ALW).” In every co-op in the United States the salary plus fringe benefits of the lowest-paid employee(s) shall be set at a level which is not less than sufficient to enable that employee(s) to purchase adequate food, clothing, shelter and other basic living needs and Economic Rights for him/her self, and a spouse and family as applicable, as defined elsewhere in this Act, and that minimum ALW remuneration level shall rationally correlate to basic living costs for the region or sub-region of the United States within which the co-op is located, as calculated by the federal government to measure and track 1) citizens’ economic wellbeing within each U.S. regional and sub-regional economy and 2) the overall wellbeing of the aggregate national economy. Any person found guilty of underpaying or attempting to underpay a co-op employee shall be sentenced to six (6) months in Poverty School.
Section 19. (of the Capitalist Free Market Corrections Act – CaFMaC)
Plain English for the Voting Citizen: 1) Any employer found underpaying Living Wage will pony up all back pay plus attorneys and court costs. 2) An employee found trying to falsely gouge an employer will get nothing and pay attorneys and court costs.
The Congressional blather version: Any co-op employee who claims employer failure to pay salary and fringe benefits minimally adequate for the local cost of living, as published for each U.S. region and sub-region by the federal government, may seek redress in federal court. Where the plaintiff is upheld the employer shall pay all court costs and attorney fees, a corrected lawful salary including lump sum back salary to the employee, and a $50,000 fine. Where the employer is upheld, a plaintiff shall pay his/her attorney fee and all (all) court costs.
SUMMARY of Sections 18-19
Plain English for the Voting Citizen: 1) Congress intends to put a stop to the greed of employers who jimmy their profits by paying their employees little better than slave wages and cheating them on things like overtime and promised benefits. 2) Employers who dump such costs on the rest of us by leaving their employees no choice but to go on public welfare and food stamps will be outed as the disloyal and unpatriotic hypocrites they are. 3) Local businesses depend on local employees having enough income to buy the goods they sell, so anybody who underpays their employees is hurting everybody’s common economy. 4) Congress intends that no American will have to work two or three jobs just to barely get by and still have to live in poverty.
The Congressional blather version: With these two measures it is the intent of Congress to eliminate the possibility, historically rampant in many business situations, of unfair treatment of employees where employers maximize their surpluses (i.e., profits) by cutting costs through the exploitive device of paying low or extremely low wages clearly inadequate to enable employees to independently sustain themselves, much less their families, at even a subsistence level of economic wellbeing, thereby evading good citizenship, loyalty to the nation and civic responsibility by unloading onto government the burden of making up subsistence living costs through food stamps and other social welfare programs. Herewith acknowledging that citizens who lack enough money to meet basic living expenses cannot spend the money that is depended on for income by local businesses and for taxes by local governments everywhere across the nation, it is the express intent of Congress to ensure that no citizen of the United States is faced with no choice but to work multiple jobs in seeking simply to secure the bare subsistence needs of life, and to ensure that equal treatment in job- and wage-related opportunity for all U.S. citizens shall henceforth be fairly served at all times, meeting the unmet needs for which labor unions came into existence, and thereby serving the common good of the nation.
Section 20. (of the Capitalist Free Market Corrections Act – CaFMaC)
Plain English for the Voting Citizen: 1) At year’s end, any co-op that still has surplus money after all expenses and reinvestment have been paid will give that surplus to employees in the form of bonuses and pay raises. 2) In the USA it is now the law that those who work hard and do their best will be rewarded if the money is available.
The Congressional blather version: If at the end of a co-op’s business year, and after payment of all business expenses, capital reinvestment and cash reserve, there remains a surplus of income over expenses, one-half (1/2) of that remaining surplus shall be distributed among all co-op employees as Earned Bonuses (EB), payable to all of every rank in equal amounts calculated by dividing one-half (1/2) the excess surplus by the total number of co-op employees employed at that time; whereas the other one-half (1/2) shall be prorated as an equal percentage of all employees’ respective salaries and paid out as an Annual Merit Pay Raise (AMPR) to every employee who meets acceptable performance standards.
Section 21. (of the Capitalist Free Market Corrections Act – CaFMaC)
Plain English for the Voting Citizen: 1) For all employees high and low, their promotions, demotions, firings, annual job performance and eligibility to receive merit pay raises (not the same thing as bonuses) will be decided by their supervisor and fellow employees. 2) Whether “tenure” is to be recognized in higher education or other professions will be decided by each state, and no assumption will be made anywhere in the USA that years spent in a job ensures competence in that job. 3) Constant innovation in every co-op will be pursued through mandatory employee suggestion programs. 4) With profits having been outlawed, cutting costs for no better reason than just for the sake of cutting costs without good reason is outlawed in co-ops everywhere across the USA. 5) Whenever a robot might be brought into a co-op’s production process and result in a loss of one or more jobs, the dollar benefit of adding the robot will be compared to the dollar benefit of the job(s) and Living Wages that would be eliminated by that robot, and where the difference is less than ten percent (10%) the default bias will be in favor of keeping the job(s). 6) Co-op employees will receive training at least once a year in the best time-proven ways to achieve business success.
The Congressional blather version: The eligibility of a co-op employee of any rank for an Annual Merit Pay Raise shall be objectively determined jointly by the employee’s peers and immediate supervisor via their respective evaluations of the employee’s 1) demonstrated proficiency in performing assigned job duties, and 2) demonstrated personal initiative in relation to the business success of the co-op. Excepting only Earned Bonuses, annual performance evaluations, gauged against objective performance standards and personal production targets documented in advance, shall be the sole qualifier for Annual Merit Pay Raises, promotions, downgrades and dismissals of all employee/owners of every rank within a co-op in the United States. The merit of each co-op employee’s work performance shall be evaluated relative to ongoing performance until retirement. The concept of tenure shall be a conditional privilege in the United States, as each state may individually decide with regard to university tenure for purposes of free research and introspection, and as various professions may or may not choose to confer after an individual’s extended consistent achievement of superior performance evaluations, but no presumed privilege of tenure shall be based on mere longevity in any position or situation within the United States.
Innovation shall be expressly encouraged and invited in every co-op by maintenance of a Constant Innovation Program (CIP) under which one suggestion shall be systematically solicited from every employee not less than once every month. A suggestion may address any workplace improvement of any nature, regardless how small or expansive from small details to broad policy. Every suggestion shall be fairly evaluated jointly by peers and supervisor, unless higher management decision is required, and all suggestions not rejected by such evaluation shall be expeditiously implemented. Where cutting of costs happens to result from employee suggestions, the cut(s) shall be coincidental to such suggested innovations and shall not an objective of them, the true objective being to make each co-op workplace more positively productive and efficient without reference to cost, and any employee of any rank whose suggestions all focus exclusively on cost cutting shall be given an all-day free tour of Poverty School.
Congress hereby directs that every introduction of a robot(s) to achieve greater production efficiency(s) shall be weighed against the relative economic value to the co-op’s local community of the living income earned by the incumbent of any job(s) which may be replaced by the robot(s), and that no co-op job(s) shall be replaced by robot installation unless the job can be usefully and productively reassigned without loss to the incumbent of a useful job and attendant income. All co-op employees shall receive training at least once annually in the concepts of overlapping teams, lateral networking for projects, and enterprise architecture along with workplace dynamics described by Douglas McGregor, Rensis Likert, Abraham Maslow and other pioneers of modern management. All members of a co-op’s managerial team shall be trained in applicable techniques of Program Planning and Budgeting, and in the art of translating policy to line-level detail. Every co-op shall have at least two employees trained in the Critical Path Method of planning and implementation for both projects and routine maintenance.
SUMMARY of Sections 20-21
Plain English for the Voting Citizen: 1) Congress intends that employees everywhere across the USA will be treated fairly and will have incentives to do good and hold down the prices they and their fellow Americans must pay for basic living costs.
The Congressional blather version: With these measures, but not limited to these measures, it is the intent of Congress to ensure that all co-op personnel actions are conducted objectively, to ensure that arbitrary and unfair personnel actions are prohibited by law, to provide further employee incentive and dedication to volume and price competition among co-ops dealing in comparable goods and services, to ensure bona fide reward incentives for worker commitment to cooperative success, to tie wage increases to demonstrated worker commitment to the cooperative enterprise, and to ensure a career path with incentives for good workmanship and constant innovation at all levels, to the benefit of the common good of the nation and of equal treatment and opportunity for all U.S. citizens.
Currently, the average exit time of venture capital – the length of time between the initial investment in a company and the date at which the investors exit – is less than five years. This short-term focus is obviously problematic, as the benefits of investments destined to correct problems such as global warming may not be seen for decades. This also explains why the markets, efficient as they are, not only have been unable to counteract the negative effects of global warming but have made matters worse. It is doubtful that economic policies and government regulation by themselves will be enough to reverse these deeply ingrained trends – at least not before we do irreparable damage to the ecosystem.
– Hector F. Sierra, in Free Inquiry (December 2015)
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