Economics/Class Relations

Socialism is better at making normal people rich.

The gas station/ice cream shop where 175 millionaires work.

Jul 18, 2023

John’s Journal

This is where I hastily scribble about what’s going on. May include righteous anger and typos.

Are Employee Stock Ownership Plans (ESOPs) socialist?

I don’t know. Some socialists think so. Ronald Reagan thought they’d be great for stopping socialism in its tracks. Neocons in the 90s were sure they would lead to serfdom. That’s for the coffee shop theory bros to sort out.

What I do know is that 175 millionaires work at an ice cream stand that sells gas, Stewart’s Shops of Upstate New York and Vermont, and that most of them started hourly and a third still are.

What gives?

You’re not supposed to become a millionaire by working at a gas station. Gas station employment is right up there with “you want fries with that?” in the Hall of Fame of regrettable phrases designed to put down working-class people while scaring 18-year-olds into six figures of student loan debt to avoid such a fate.

Well, more than 1,000 employees at this ice cream stand turned gas station have over $100,000 in their accounts, and I know a lot more college grads with more than $100,000 of debt.

175 Stewart’s employees are millionaires because Stewart’s is an ESOP with 40% employee ownership. There seems to be something to this whole “workers owning the means of production” thing. Call it socialism, or don’t, but it’s making millionaires in upstate New York.

Good enough for me.

I grew up in Redneck Rust Belt Appalachia. I live there now. Writing positively about socialism comes about as naturally as walking outside without clothes on. It’s just not something you do around here to make friends.

But what else are you going to do? I can’t think of another job where a cashier can legitimately expect to become a millionaire if they just stick with it. Worker ownership is making that happen. It works. We should go with what works.

Younger John would not have humped anything close to socialism so publically. I was prom king. I know what’s popular and what makes you sit at the front of the bus with the substitute gym teacher.

Looking back, most of my aversion was because I couldn’t imagine anything other than the capitalism we inherited. I didn’t have the vocabulary or framework for an alternative. Capitalism is synonymous with America. Most of us learn this early on and file it under “the way things are” like the fish asking “What’s water?”

Best not to worry about it.


Leave a Reply