(Scroll down for video) An elderly owner of a multi million dollar supermarket chain did not do what was expected. Instead of leaving his family business to his children he gave it all away to his employees, according to video uploaded to the internet.
Retiring Minnesota supermarket chain owner Joe Lueken, did the unusual. He gave his business to his 400 employees. The story received wide attention as comforting and was praised as a Wonderful act of charity.
This decision however, is not that unusual, according to press reports. In fact, Bob Moore, owner of Oregon-based cereal producer Bob’s Red Mill Natural Foods, did exactly the same thing two years ago.
Their actions reflect the under the radar, but the growing trend of worker ownership in the United States. The shocking truth is that there are thousands of successful worker-owned businesses in the United States.
We're not just talking about the little hippie cooperatives. In fact, the largest majority employee-owned business is based in Florida. Publix Super Markets, a company worth $27 billion, employes 152,000 people. Moreover, Publix has more workers than Costco and Whole Foods combined.
At a time of high unemployment, rising corporate profits and declining job quality, employee ownership offers a viable and attractive alternative to corporate capitalism. It's a way for workers to own the means of production without overthrowing the capitalist system.
Far from the communist ideal, employee ownership is a third form of business ownership that both the left and the right can embrace. Advocates applaud this as workers are more involved in the structure of the business model.
Workers directly reap the fruits of their labor instead of working hard for investors. In turn, the employees are more motivated, productive and creative. According to a study by researchers at Rutgers and the University of Harvard, firms with substantial employee participation often exceed those without, due to lower staff turnover and stronger relationships of trust at work.