A Direct Stake in Economic Life: Worker-Owned Firms   - CLEO Skip to main content


That individuals work harder, better and with greater enthusiasm when they have a direct interest in the outcome is self-evident to most people. The obvious question is: Why aren’t large numbers of businesses organized on this principle?

The answer is: In fact, thousands and thousands of them are. Indeed, more Americans now work in firms which are partly or wholly-owned by the employees than are members of unions in the private sector!

Appleton (Co.) in Appleton, Wisconsin (a world leader in specialty paper production) became employee-owned when the company was put up for sale by Arjo Wiggins Appleton, the multinational corporation which owned it–and the 2,500 employees decided they had just as much right to buy it as anyone else. Reflexite, an optics company based in New Avon Connecticut, became employee-owned in 1985 after 3M made a strong bid for the company and the founding owners, loyal to their workers and the town, preferred to sell to the employees instead.