Sharing Ownership in the Workplace

By Raymond Russell

Series: SUNY series in the Sociology of Work and Organizations
Paperback : 9780873959995, 267 pages, June 1985
Hardcover : 9780873959988, 267 pages, June 1985

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Table of contents


1. Ownership, Work, and Public Policy
What is Ownership?
Property and Labor
Toward An "Industrial Homestead Act" for the United States
Worker Ownership and the American Dream

2. Strategies For Sharing Ownership
Working as Stockholders
Owning by Belonging
Democracy in the Workplace
Ownership and the Nature of Work
Towards Richer Models of Shared Ownership in the Workplace

3. The Worker-Owned Scavenger Companies of the San Francisco Bay Area
Sharing Ownership in a Scavenger Firm
Owning Stock in a Scavenger Company
"E cosa nostra"
Leadership and Democracy in the Scavenger Firms
The Work of a Worker-Owner
Processes of Degeneration in the Scavenger Firms
New Sources of Profit in the Solid Wastes
Management Industry
The Decline of Group Ties Among the Scavengers
Management and Oligarchy
The Redesign of Jobs at the Scavenger Companies
The Retreat from Worker Ownership
The Dynamics of Degeneration in the Scavenger Firms

4. Taxi Cooperatives in the United States
The Dynamics of Degeneration in Boston's ITOA
The Economics of Degeneration
The Loss of Community
The Political Dynamics of Degeneration
Degeneration and the Nature of Work
The Role of Culture and Ethnicity in the Taxi Cooperatives of Los Angeles
Signs of Degeneration in the L. A. Taxi Cooperatives
The Role of Soviet Immigrants in the Cooperatives
Taxi Cooperatives and Local Governments

5. Group Practices in the Professions
On the Origins of Group Practices in the Professions
Sharing Income in Professional Firms
Professional Partnerships as Communities
Decision Making in Professional Firms Partnership and the Nature of Work
Do Group Practices in the Professions Degenerate Over Time?
6. Sharing Ownership in the Services
Why Are These Organizations Employee-Owned?
The Politics of Sharing Income
On Degeneration: A Final Note

7. Making Workers Owners in the Contemporary United States
Devices for Making Workers Owners
Divestures to Employees of Entire Businesses or Plants
The Spread of Employee Stock Ownership Plans, or "ESOPs"
Displacement of Employees by Independent Contractors and Franchisees
Why All of These Efforts to Turn Workers Into Owners?
Ownership, Morale, and Labor Costs: Beyond Bureaucratic Control
Workers as Investors
The Government Role
From Employee Ownership to Workers' Control?

Subject Index
Index of Proper Names


Employee ownership is the fastest growing organizational trend in American business. Instances of workers buying out closing plants, unions granting wage concessions in exchange for an employer's stock, and corporations using employee stock ownership as a defense against takeovers are occurring more frequently. But is the movement toward employee ownership a significant new trend or a repetition of past mistakes?

Sharing Ownership in the Workplace traces the history of employee ownership in the United States and Western Europe to its incipiency in the nineteenth century. The findings are disturbing—labor-owned business tend to revert to conventional organizational structure. This book examines this phenomenon, an understanding of which is crucial for assessing the prospects of the emerging generation of employee-owned firms. It presents three contemporary case studies of businesses that have been employee owned for generations—scavenger firms, taxi cooperatives, and professional group practices—to determine what causes them to fail and what makes for successful labor-controlled operations.

Throughout Russell integrates various ideological perspectives on worker-owned organizations, citing theorists as diverse as Karl Marx, Max Weber, Sidney and Beatrice Webb, Louis Kelso, and Peter Drucker. Special attention is paid to the processes that lead to employee ownership, cause it to spread, and either to endure or to degenerate over time.

Raymond Russell is Assistant Professor of Sociology at the University of California, Riverside.


"This book represents a very important addition to the literature on employee ownership. It presents a thoughtful and original analysis of both existing research and new material. " — Corey Rosen, Associate, National Center for Employee Ownership