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ESOP Association Blog

The ESOP Community’s New Year’s Resolution: Double Down on Advocacy

James Bonham, President and CEO, The ESOP Association

The New Year is typically a time for resolutions. Often our resolutions are about personal growth or goals – perhaps we resolve to exercise, read, or travel more. Maybe we resolve to go back to school to complete or earn a degree, or perhaps learn a new language or take up a new hobby.  At The ESOP Association, we’re resolving to continue the exciting growth and accomplishments from 2022 and striving to serve our membership in new and better ways. If you’ve been keeping up with our monthly ESOP Reports you know we’re setting a very high bar, as the Association reached a number of important milestones last year. 

As we emerged from the pandemic in early 2022, a key priority for the Association was ramping up in-person chapter events to ensure our members were receiving the highest quality educational and professional opportunities in the most accessible ways – be that local, regional or national events. You certainly responded, as attendance at our chapter events last year reached an all-time high. And in November, we broke another attendance record at Employee Owned 2022 in Las Vegas, once again setting the standard as the largest gathering of employee-owners and practitioners in the world. 

2022 was also a banner year for our advocacy efforts, as we achieved truly consequential changes in public policy when the SECURE 2.0 Act of 2022 was included in the year-end omnibus legislation and signed into law. As a result of that legislation, ESOPs are on the cusp of accomplishing the bulk of the major legislative goals that have been pursued for decades. Spurred by the growth of our grassroots and government relations efforts, there is a prime opportunity to gain even further ground this year and strengthen our position among legislators and regulators at the federal level. But we’re going to need your help.

The ESOP Association is currently in the strongest position we’ve been in for decades. With our membership at a high point and a Congress that has demonstrated its strong support for ESOPs and employee ownership, now is the time to double down on our advocacy efforts. Because while we achieved great things in 2022, obstacles still remain, and we must continue to leverage all our strengths to ensure the legislation that was enacted is properly implemented. 

Thanks to our champions in Congress, the Department of Labor must undergo a formal rulemaking process to finally describe the appropriate way companies should be valued when forming an ESOP. That regulatory clarity will be a watershed event as the impact ripples through the industry. But we’ve been down this road before with DOL. That’s why we’re gearing up for a lengthy campaign to ensure the Department is held accountable to begin rulemaking in a timely manner, and that TEA and our members play a significant role in the rulemaking process. Just as the lack of an adequate consideration rule has had a chilling effect on ESOP formation, a well-written rule could spur a new wave of growth in our community. In the same vein, a poor rule could be devastating to the future of ESOPs, which is why we must be fully engaged during every step of the process.

We’re also working toward ensuring the newly created Employee Ownership Initiative within the Department of Labor is fully funded, that its resources are properly distributed, and that states take full advantage of grant funds as soon as they are available. The Employee Ownership Initiative has the potential to be one of the greatest drivers of ESOP growth in the next decade, and it’s imperative that the program hit the ground running. 

To accomplish these objectives, we’re going to need your help now more than ever. Our membership must step forward to lead, to be the voice of the entire ESOP and employee ownership community. In my address during Employee Owned 2022, I spoke of storm clouds gathering on the horizon. But I also spoke of our collective power, if we stand united, to secure the future of ESOPs. This is our opportunity to use that collective power to drive the change we need from our government in order to best position ESOPs for the decades to come.  

What can you do? In the spirit of New Year’s resolutions, you can resolve to join us in these coming battles, to do what you can to advocate for the cause we’re all so passionate about. You can contribute to ESOP PAC or Corporate Council, or become an ESOP Ambassador and help us communicate on a local level with your federal elected representatives. The simplest way to help is by joining the Employee Ownership Action Network (EOAN), which is free, easy to join, and will keep you informed about the latest public policy developments. But what we really need our members to do is take up the torch of employee ownership like you never have before and help us create a stronger ESOP community. 

While TEA speaks for and advocates for all ESOPs, it’s our membership that foots the bill. You can help us serve you better by helping us bring more ESOPs into TEA. We need you to engage with ESOPs in your areas who are not members and let them know the issues we’re working on affect them as much as you. Help us educate non-members of the benefits of TEA, about how we exist to serve, and about why it’s so important they become members. 

Right now, we’ve got our membership, the U.S. Congress, and momentum all moving in the right direction. In 2023, we’re resolving to redouble our advocacy to take full advantage of the strongest position The ESOP Association and ESOPs have ever been in, and I hope you’ll join us in this journey. Together, there’s no limit to what we can achieve and ensure the success of ESOPs for the next generation. 


Want more articles like this? Read the ESOP Report >>