Great Beer Drinking Occasion

icy and Dan inside the Brewery

icy and Dan inside the Brewery

Here is a story that warms my heart in a very special way, tomorrow Harpoon Brewery becomes 48% employee-owned!

I enjoyed Harpoon, a local brew, when I lived in Boston, and I am very pro employee-ownership. This event combines both of those things and creates a great beer drinking occasion.

There is a video of a co-founder discussing the transition at NECN in their article “Harpoon Brewery to become employee-owned“.

Congratulations to the new owners of Harpoon Brewery!

“Prosperity For All”


BALLE, the Business Alliance for Local Living Economies, will be holding their annual conference, titled “Prosperity For All” June 11 – 13 in Oakland, CA.

“This June, the 12th Annual BALLE Conference will bring hundreds of entrepreneurs and local business leaders to Oakland, CA, to dive deep into the most energized issues in the Localist movement today.”

Details here:


Employee Ownership Conference, April 8-10, 2014, in Atlanta

Saw a press release through Digital Journal and also PR Web detailing the events at this year’s NCEO Employee Ownership Conference.

Here’s the first few paragraphs from the press release:

Verit Advisors will have five presenters at the 2014 NCEO Employee Ownership Conference in Atlanta, April 8-10, 2014. This annual conference is a premier gathering on employee ownership and over 1,200 attendees are expected.


Verit Advisors CEO, Mary Josephs, will moderate the Newcomer Orientation and moderate a panel on the closing day on “Questions and Lessons Learned as a New ESOP.” Josephs founded Verit Advisors in 2009 and has nearly three decades of experience in corporate finance. She is a nationally recognized leader and has advised structured and closed more than 200 financings for middle market companies. Ms. Josephs is a past two term board member of NCEO (National Center for Employee Ownership).


On Tuesday, April 8 Neal Hawkins will be a panelist discussing “Unique Structuring Issues with ESOPs.” This session, presented from the point of view of both the seller and the trustee, will explore how different ESOP transaction structures for both new ESOPs and existing ESOPs affect valuation, financing, and legal considerations.

Knock me over with a feather

I get daily email updates from Google on news categories I have selected, including worker cooperatives, employee ownership, and ESOPs. Since I have signed up I have found that there is a lot of activity around the world concerning coops, some from Europe, the UK, and Canada, concerning government initiatives to foster more employee ownership.

One interesting thread of news has concerned the “UK Employee Share Ownership Index (EOI)” Articles about the index have included some from the Eurocentric Financial Times, and a look by the US based ESOP Centre. This is interesting, to me, because it does not really involve a government initiative. Sure, the UK government created the regulations for ESOPs, which are similar to US regulations, but creating the index itself, maintaining and publicizing the index, is supported by a UK non-profit and UK for-profit finance!

The Financial Times article says:

“By putting a figure on the returns from employee-owned companies, the EOI’s backers – which include the exchange, corporate finance firm Capital Strategies and the Employee Share Ownership Centreintend to raise awareness of the value of having staff as stakeholders.”

So today I get a Google alert:

00 google grab edit

Well, an article on HuffPo about employee ownership in the US!

You could knock me over with a feather. I got to see this.

I was excited, because the HuffPo ain’t exactly “for the people,” as far as I can tell. It looks pretty much like any other corporate news outlet to me. So it seemed like a big forum for employee-owner news. Well, first off I see the “article” is submitted by Rep. Earl Pomeroy. That’s fine with me, but only confirms my suspicions about the capitalist lackey, running dog, HuffPo. :-) (Nothing personal, Arriana.) Moving on …

America: Land of Opportunity, is a fine submission by the Representative. The first few paragraphs lay they ground work, poverty bad, and then the next couple of paragraphs note that the US Congress created ESOP legislation, and then paragraph four really brings it home:

What’s more, these companies perform better because of the sense of common ownership: Last year a study by American Enterprise Institute economist Alex Brill found that S ESOPs were more resilient in the recent down economy, growing their jobs when U.S. employment as a whole was flat. That makes inherent sense when you consider the impact that giving employees an ownership stake in the success of the company has on their willingness to reach down for that extra effort when challenging economic times arrive.

Then paragraph five says why he is writing this piece:

Sen. Ben Cardin (D-Md.) and Sen. Pat Roberts (R-Kan.), together with 16 bipartisan cosponsors, are touting their Promotion and Expansion of Private Employee Ownership Act, which would make the structure available to more companies and thus benefit more U.S. employees. I hope all the talk in Washington translates to passing this legislation.

The final paragraph basically just re-iterates some of the previous points, and kinda says, ‘these are really, really, really good positions, and these aren’t jobz, these are owner-employees, and why the hell won’t more people support this obvious goodness?

So I check on this “Promotion and Expansion of Private Employee Ownership Act” at GovTrack.

Referred to Committee, Apr 16, 2013


     1% chance of getting past committee.
     0% chance of being enacted.

This bill was a re-introduction of S. 1512 (112th) (Sep 06, 2011).

I sigh. A two-year old bill re-introduced with 16 bipartisan co-sponsors, that does a little bit to assist citizens achieve a stake in their own livelihood, a stake in self-determination and an equitable share of the profits from their own labor, and would clearly help rebuild the US middle class and the economy, and the bill has 0% chance of being enacted.

Jesus Christ. I think I’ll go take a nap now.

I have a lot more confidence that the UK EOI will successfully raise awareness of the benefits of employee-ownership, to employees, to investors, to society and the economy and the ecology, than that the US will ever pull its head out of its a** support citizen ownership of the means of production.


Cross-posted at MyFireDogLake

The Promise and Limitations of Worker Co-ops – Gar Alperovitz on Reality Asserts Itself (4/5)

I was alerted the other day to an interview of Gar Alperovitz, in five parts, on the Reality Asserts Itself program on

Much of the interview is interesting, but I was mainly drawn to parts 4 and 5;
The Promise and Limitations of Worker Co-ops – Gar Alperovitz on Reality Asserts Itself (4/5),
and, What Would You Do If You Had Political Power? – Gar Alperovitz on Reality Asserts Itself (5/5)


The Promise and Limitations of Worker Co-ops – Gar Alperovitz on Reality Asserts Itself (4/5)

“Mr. Alperovitz tells Paul Jay that the experience of Spain’s Mondragon, the world’s largest workers’ co-op, shows that workers’ ownership can go to scale, but on their own co-ops will not transform society or the economy -   January 27, 2014″

I think Mr. Alperovitz actually tells Paul Jay that “on their own co-ops will not transform society or the economy” but that they will be part of the overall solution comprised of interconnected efforts and various structures and tactics. Very subtle difference, and Paul Jay seems intelligent, so I’m sure he grasps Alperovitz’s meaning, but the sound-bite style synopsis doesn’t really capture the conversation.


What Would You Do If You Had Political Power? – Gar Alperovitz on Reality Asserts Itself (5/5)

“Mr. Alperovitz tells Paul Jay there are existing models that point to what a new economy and politics might look like -   January 28, 2014″

This was an enjoyable segment, but I am caught with the nagging feeling that Mr. Alperovitz is too nice too often, or maybe he is too positive. That probably comes from his background as a Professor. And his demeanor probably helped him convince universities and hospitals to support their projects, but I feel there could be more fire in his words. I wish he would just state: “Demand that your cities and states expend their funds in a way that will directly support citizens rather than distant shareholders!”

Best passage of the video [paraphrased]:

Political power goes with ownership. …  You wanna change politics, you’ve gotta change ownership in a democratic way.

Cross-posted at FireDogLake

War of the Words

Life is frustrating here among the humans. Humans have this thing called language that they can try to use to exchange thoughts and ideas between each other’s brains. It seems like a spiffy thing. This language can be spoken, or even written down so as to save for latter or reproduced and delivered to many humans. The spoken language, made up of all these individual words, is really fun because the humans combine the audible spoken words with hand motions and facial expressions, and even just slight changes in the human’s voice, which they call things like tone or inflection.  I can just point with my finger and say, “Give me that cock,” and the other human will use his hands to pick up the rooster and physically lift the rooster and move it through time and space into my hands. Oh, you thought I meant something else? You are obviously have a dirty mind, or are anticipating my next paragraph.

Kudzu house

Kudzu house

Yes, it is obvious, this language thing isn’t that useful at all unless the humans all agree what all these little individual words each mean. Often humans actually mean the opposite of what they say! Ya dig, my peeps? Or maybe the humans say really crazy, convoluted, stuff, but most everybody usually knows what the speaker means even then because … well, they learned what it means from being around other humans. Crazy things like, “I need a wife like I need another hole in my head.” Or, “A woman without a husband is like a fish without a bicycle.” That’s all clear, right? Left? Whatever. So if everybody understands that a cock is a rooster, everything’s fine. And if everybody understands that Tiny Tim is actually a very large man, everything is fine.

But the world just gets more and more complicated, and there are more and more people, and there are more and more words, and there are complicated systems already in place and it’s like we are all in a leaky boat and everybody just grabs a bucket and jumps in and helps bailing out the boat. We are all confident and intelligent humans and we can see the hole in the boat and we just do what we know needs to be done. But the world isn’t a leaky boat, not even close really. For instance, I do not believe that I will ever truly comprehend how complicated this world is, heck, I never even figured out my own marriage, much less how to program my old VCR.

So this whole language thing is a lot more complicated than it appears at first. It turns out that words can be wonderful–or deadly. Shh, remember, loose lips sink ships. See, despite all those useful and fun things we thought we could do with words, other people (not me!) actually use words to deceive, or to trick, or to confuse other humans.

Lies, lies, lies. Yeap, I’m talking ‘bout lies. Tiny Tim is a lie, he’s actually very big! And I don’t want another hole in my head, and you probably want to keep your hands off my cock. But none of those things really impact the major systems of the world, so we should just set Tiny Tim and my cock to one side for now and move to the big lie, capitalism.

Apparently nobody can agree what capitalism is. Heck, we humans can even argue about what the definition of “is” is. We humans are pathetic. Anyway … you might imagine that all of use agreeing on the definition of capitalism is would be rather important, because it seems capitalism is popping up everywhere these days, like kudzu (look it up ;-).

So let’s take a really brief tour of the rainbow of thoughts and ideas out there about this word capitalisim.

From our old friends Merriam and Webster

Kudzu light pole

CAPITALISM: a way of organizing an economy so that the things that are used to make and transport products (such as land, oil, factories, ships, etc.) are owned by individual people and companies rather than by the government

Full Definition of CAPITALISM: an economic system characterized by private or corporate ownership of capital goods, by investments that are determined by private decision, and by prices, production, and the distribution of goods that are determined mainly by competition in a free market

Definition of ‘Capitalism’ from Investopedia:

A system of economics based on the private ownership of capital and production inputs, and on the production of goods and services for profit. The production of goods and services is based on supply and demand in the general market (market economy), rather than through central planning (planned economy). Capitalism is generally characterized by competition between producers. Other facets, such as the participation of government in production and regulation, vary across models of capitalism.

A couple of definitions from our old frenemy, Ayn Rand:
When I say “capitalism,” I mean a full, pure, uncontrolled, unregulated laissez-faire capitalism—with a separation of state and economics, in the same way and for the same reasons as the separation of state and church. — Ayn Rand

The recognition of individual rights entails the banishment of physical force from human relationships: basically, rights can be violated only by means of force. In a capitalist society, no man or group may initiate the use of physical force against others.
["What Is Capitalism?" Capitalism: The Unknown Ideal] — Ayn Rand

From The Concise Encyclopedia of Economics
(It is not concise at all; it is really like Tiny Tim!)

And now Google gives a definition right on their search page without any attribution, which says:
an economic and political system in which a country’s trade and industry are controlled by private owners for profit, rather than by the state.
synonyms free enterprise, private enterprise, the free market;
antonyms communism

My personal friend, Wikipedia, at least indicates there is some disagreement.


Different economic perspectives emphasize specific elements of capitalism in their preferred definition. Laissez-faire and liberal economists emphasize the degree to which government does not have control over markets and the importance of property rights. Neoclassical and Keynesian macro-economists emphasize the need for government regulation to prevent monopolies and to soften the effects of the boom and bust cycle. Marxian economists emphasize the role of capital accumulation, exploitation and wage labour. Most political economists emphasize private property as well, in addition to power relations, wage labour, class, and the uniqueness of capitalism as a historical formation.

Proponents of capitalism argue that it creates more prosperity than any other economic system, and that its benefits are mainly to the ordinary person. Critics of capitalism variously associate it with economic instability and an inability to provide for the well-being of all people. In contrast to both perspectives, socialists maintain that capitalism is superior to all previously existing economic systems (such as feudalism or slavery) but that the contradiction between class interests will only be resolved by advancing into a completely social system of production and distribution in which all persons have an equal relationship to the means of production.

But all of these definitions fail me, because I know they are all wrong, and they are all trying to obfuscate words and phrases and prevent actual meaning from reaching humans, for whatever reason. How do I know they are all lying? I used the same method I used to discover Tiny Tim is not tiny but actually rather large–I opened my eyes and looked.

I can see that the word capitalism is used to mean that all the profits are going to the one who contributed capital to an endeavor. That’s obvious. But I studied equitable distribution, and in a marriage, one spouse can raise the children and cook meals, while the other can earn capital, but in the end, once the cooked goose or the capital exists in the body of marriage, those things must be apportioned between the entire body (usually two humans). If you’ve been divorced you might be familiar with equitable distribution, for the rest of you, heck, maybe you should just get married.

Anyway, long ago, people spoke of capitalism as a marriage of capital. Often people used the word partnership rather than marriage, cause we all know that we need marriage like we need another hole in the head. For instance, check out this article from 1902, “Harmonizing Labor and Capital by Means of Industrial Partnership”, from the “Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social Science”:

Obviously in capitalism all profit goes to one member of the partnership. I think the whole thing with the word socialism really muddied the waters and all the Ayn Rand types were all wound up and became anti-government and all carrying-on about freedom while the lefties were all about regulation and anti-monopoly and taxes. The word socialism somehow left the train of thought about the partnership between labor and capital and replaced labor with a big over-bearing government and taxes and force. But where is the method called laborism, where all profit would go to labor, and those who invested capital would only get the prevailing interest rate on their investment? Oh,that  doesn’t exist? Damn, cause that would be nice. Essentially, somehow, somebody, seemed to obliterate the concepts of a marriage, ora  partnership, between capital and labor, and switched the conversation to the corporations versus the government. But wait, when did the humans who contribute labor agree to forfeit their equitable share of  profits?

Some people are talking about liberty and force, and some are talking about efficiency, and some call free-markets synonyms, and communism antonyms, and some are talking about command and control economies, and some are just blah, blah, blah.

Wait just a moment, did somebody say force? Like, work for me and make me profit or starve and die! Heck, that’s called coercion, a type of indirect force. That should be against the law, forcing people to work and make somebody else a profit just to be allowed to live.

Ooops. Somebody in the back said it is? Well, anywhere else other humans might make you sit down and shut up, but here, we’re crazy, so maybe this is where you belong, hang around. But while we are on the subject, this crazy fellow ( says that renting slaves for eight hours a day is as bad as owning slaves and violates our indivisible rights and shouldn’t be allowed, and we humans should only tolerate corporations that split the profits between those humans who invest capital and those humans who invest labor (and themselves.) He may actually have a point. See also: master and servant relationship ( and think about it. Maybe read what that crazy dude has to say. He argues that the only just way is for there to be a partnership between labor and capital, that all humans who become laborers receiving a wage should actually be considered self-employed and in partnership with the humans with capital and the profits should then be split.

(Short side trip: In essence Ellerman says one man has a hammer, and a stack of wood worth 1000 schmeckles, while another man can use a hammer very well. If the man who is good with the hammer builds a finished house which can be sold for 101,000 schmeckles, then they should split the resulting 100,000 schmeckles profit, minus the sandwich (wages) the man who is good with the hammer ate while he created this fabulous house. Capitalism is what dictates the absurd condition that all profit should go to the guy with the hammer. (Some argue that the man with the time and ability to build a house is actually worth more than the man who supplied the hammer and wood, but that’s another argument entirely.)

OK, OK, I need to wrap it up. All I wanted to point out is that capitalism means that all profit will go only to those who contribute capital. Co-ops and other worker-owned corporations don’t stick to that system. Struggling to find justice in a world obsessed with property rights–ownership–those organizations return much of the organization’s profits to the workers, who are also the owners to satisfy the property-control obsession, and also often proportion some profits to pay for the loans for the initial capital used to create the business, or actually allow investors to own a portion of the company and then apportion the profits between labor and capital.

The bottom line is that these co-ops and other worker-owned corporations don’t violate any of these definitions except my own. These co-ops and worker-owned corporations operate in a free-market, and respect property rights, and don’t force work out of people, and everything else in all those other definitions. So they must be capitalistic. And study after study has shown that they have higher productivity than share-holder only owned corporations, so that sounds like it will produce the most goods in the most efficient manner possible, so that would be good. And investors actually make more profit, dollar for dollar invested, and the worker humans have security and better financial prospects. But those organizations don’t divert all profit to the 20% who own 80% of financial assets–and I think that is really the sticking point for many–or certain–humans.

But I am telling you, capitalism isn’t characterized by freedom, or command and control, or efficiency, or any of the other bullshit other humans tell you. Capitalism means the opposite of equitable distribution; capitalism means all profits go to the guy who owns the monopoly board, and everybody else losses. Capitalism means the man with the hammer and wood ends up with a valuable house, while the man with the priceless skills to build a house ends up with just a sandwich. Well, either way, just keep your cock away from mine, and you and me should be just fine.


Cross posted at MyFireDogLake

M&A in the E-0 space

badger_bannerIn the Jan. 2 roundup of employee-ownership news I had pointed out an article at the Lacrosse Tribune about Badger Corrugating becoming 40 percent employee owned, Badger Corrugating hands over 40 percent ownership to workers.  On Jan. 3 another article about Badger appeared in the Lacrosse Post Crescent, Badger Corrugating sets up ESOP for workers.

Also on Jan. 3, an article appeared out of Alaska in the Herald Online about an Alaska Rubber Group acquisition.

alaska rubberAlaska Rubber Group Completes Washington Acquisition

The Alaska Rubber Group has acquired five additional locations, effectively doubling the size of its employee owned organization.

The Alaska Rubber Group, consisting of three locations within Alaska, Anchorage, Fairbanks, & Wasilla, has purchased five additional locations in Washington. The five additional locations were formerly referred to as the Pacific Rubber Group, and they consist of stores throughout Washington serving the entire Pacific Northwest region.

Each location within the group will retain its original name. However, each will be branded as an Employee Owned Alaska Rubber Group Company. Alaska Rubber Group COO Mike Mortensen explained; “We definitely want to keep the local culture at each location intact. There’s a strong commitment within each store to customer service, and over the years each store has developed a loyal customer base.

 Also on Jan 3, there was news that two …

GTLTexas landscape companies merge.

Effective January 1, 2014, Greater Texas Landscape Services (GTL) and Hadden Landscaping have merged. GTL is is a part of Tucson-based The Groundskeeper, the largest 100% employee owned landscape firm in the US. The combined entity will continue to operate under the two individual corporate names, but will share resources to ensure the same quality full service landscape care for which both firms have become known. Hadden’s locations in Plano and Fort Worth will complement GTL’s office in Lewisville. By combining forces, both firms and their common client base will enjoy a broader geographic service area in order to promptly serve customer needs quickly. The merger will allow enhanced shared benefits for employees as both employee groups will be a part of an ESOP (Employee Stock Ownership Plan).

Then, on Jan 4, there was the article:

dexterGreen Fields: Fairfield company buys Dalton Ag Products

Dexter Apache Holdings, an employee-owned manufacturing company in Fairfield, says it has purchased Cox Manufacturing Co., the maker of fertilizer application equipment in Lenox, a community in southern Iowa.

Rob Cox, Dalton’s owner and president, will continue to lead the Lenox operation, Albregts said.

Dalton’s 75 workers will become Dexter Apache employee-owners.

“This sale will be a major boost to Dalton’s future growth, and it’s a real win for rural Iowa and Lenox, which we are proud and grateful to call our home,” Cox said.

Finally, today, Jan. 5, there is an article out of New Hampshire  announcing the accomplishments of an employee-owned firm there in the Granite State.

Wright-Pierce-logoBanner Year for Wright-Pierce 

PORTSMOUTH — For Wright-Pierce, an employee-owned, engineering company specializing in water, wastewater and municipal infrastructure services throughout the Northeast, 2013 was a banner year.

Since January, Wright-Pierce has hired 30 new employees, increasing its staff to nearly 200 people, adding depth and breadth to both technical and management teams. Wright-Pierce also expanded in 2013, opening a second New Hampshire office in Manchester to better serve a growing client base in Southern New Hampshire and Massachusetts.

Cheers to everybody mentioned here, with a heartfelt expression of support from EquitablePrinciples.
May all employee-owned businesses have a banner year in 2014!

Party On!!

The news today is that Party Source, the largest beverage and alcohol store in the U.S., and apparently the only one with an on premises microbrewery and distillery, became 100% employee owned.

The place has many articles about it, from breaking ground for the distillery to today’s announcement of the transfer of ownership to the employees. Many stories indeed, because it sounds like an interesting place.

The Party Source website, a fun website to visit if you can't get to Kentucky.

The Party Source website, a fun website to visit if you can’t get to Kentucky.

The Party Source breaks ground on new micro-distillery

“The new distillery will allow us to celebrate in our state’s heritage, while producing a world-class product and visitor experience that will only enhance the Greater Cincinnati and Northern Kentucky region as a travel destination. We’ve done everything possible to ensure that our distillery will be top-notch, from the hiring of Glaserworks as the architects of the distillery to the securing of industry veteran Larry Ebersold as our master distiller,” said Mollie Lewis, Nth Degree Distilling Owner/President.

“The expanded store will house a micro-brewery and craft beer bar with 40 taps, as well as the ‘library bar’ of 400+ bourbons and ryes to educate the public,” says Lewis.

 Ky. wants to help bourbon distillers with tax credits

When Ken Lewis saw a surge in bourbon sales at his Party Source liquor store here, he decided to make his own.

The stainless steel fermentation tanks now standing in front of his store will become part of The Nth Degree distillery sometime next year and produce alcohol that will sit in charred-oak barrels for five or more years before becoming a new brand of Kentucky bourbon — the only one produced in this part of the state.

Nov 26, 2013 New distillery on Party Source campus places copper still: with SLIDESHOW 

Distillery owner Ken Lewis plans for New Riff to be a way to connect with Kentucky’s bourbon tradition. The facility is expected to open to the public in the spring, but it’s already been added as a stop on the Craft Bourbon Trail.

“The new distillery will allow us to celebrate in our state’s heritage, while producing a world-class product and visitor experience that will only enhance the Greater Cincinnati and Northern Kentucky region as a travel destination,” Lewis said in a statement. “We’ve done everything possible to ensure that our distillery will be top-notch, we like to call it Kentucky URBAN Whiskey. A new taste on the long standing tradition of bourbon.”

New Riff’s still will be able to produce about 12 53-gallon barrels of bourbon per day once it is prepared. But it will be years before the first batch of the distillery’s bourbon will be available. In the meantime, New Riff will sell other spirits and offer tours of its brewing facilities. 

 Party Source becomes employee-owned company

Ken Lewis, founder of the Party Source, is creating an employee stock ownership plan. The day-to-day operations of the Bellevue-store will not change.

“It’s been my dream all along to turn this company over to my employees who helped make the Party Source not just the largest beverage and alcohol store in the U.S., but one of the most successful and cutting edge operations as well,” Lewis said in a news release. “Selling to my employees is the ultimate way to keep this company moving forward even as I turn my attention to New Riff Distilling and Ei8ht Ball Brewing, both located on The Party Source campus. Much more than just personal material success, enriching so many hard working, loyal families gives me great personal satisfaction.”

Most of the news about employee-ownership recently has been coming from Europe or Canada, so it is very nice to see this story coming out of Kentucky of all places. I have a great deal of respect for Ken Lewis and commend him for his entrepreneurial spirit, his ambition and his equitable principles.

A hearty congratulations to all those at The Party Source!

Party On!!


Cross-posted at MyFDL