Happy Labor Day! We sincerely hope if you’re reading this, that it’s not at work, but at home, at rest or among friends, or doing something you love — fermenting food, making some cheese or working on a few home projects to boost your resiliency and reduce your ecological footprint.
Or, maybe you’re just grilling. Or, maybe there is still such a thing as a Labor Day parade in your community — one that actually celebrates workers.
In 1884, Congress passed a law making the first Monday of every September “Labor Day,” a day set aside to celebrate the social and economic achievements of the everyday worker, especially union workers. Workplace safety regulations? An eight-hour workday? Paid sick and vacation days? Weekends? Yeah, thank those early labor unions — not vulture capitalists, bankers or the 1 percent.
We at Chelsea Green have a lot to celebrate this labor day, and want to invite you to share in our good cheer.
As many of you know, in late June the company sold control of its stock to its employees by creating an ESOP (Employee Stock Ownership Plan). Essentially, that means that now close to 80 percent of the company’s stock is held by its employees. The remainder of the stock remains in the control of Ian and Margo Baldwin, who founded Chelsea Green in 1984 on the South Green in Chelsea, Vermont. Margo Baldwin is currently the company’s president and publisher and will maintain that role for the foreseeable future.
Around the same time as the ESOP was created. Chelsea Green was recognized by ForeWord Reviews as its 2011 Independent Publisher of the Year, in which the company was recognized for its “significant contributions in the categories of politics and sustainable living.” This year (to date) we’ve also landed our fourth book on The New York Times bestseller list, with Sandor Katz’s The Art of Fermentation landing at number 14.
This doesn’t happen without a lot of hard work from all us grasshoppers here at Chelsea Green.
Given the company’s long-term mission of publishing ideas to help communities remain resilient and businesses sustainable while connecting to their sense of place, making the move to an employee-owned model is an example of the company practicing what it publishes.
“Ian and I are thrilled that the company has taken this important step and look forward to working with our employees to advance the mission and to create an even more successful and profitable company in the years to come,” added Margo Baldwin. National studies have shown ESOPs to outperform their private sector counterparts in terms of overall profitability, productivity, employee retention and employee earnings.
To celebrate, we’re putting a handful of our key labor-focused and sustainable business and economic books on sale. They include Les Leopold’s fantastic biography of Tony Mazzocchi, a major figure in the modern labor movement and John Abrams’ inspirational book on workplace democracy and equality, Companies We Keep.
And, if these books aren’t of interest, check out the forthcoming books that will soon arrive in a bookstore near you (in fact, some may have already).
So, enjoy - and seriously, don’t work too hard. But, if you do, work toward this vision of Tony Mazzocchi’s as explained by his longtime friend and biographer Les Leopold:
“Tony’s big ideas led to Tony’s big actions—and both differentiated him from nearly every other modern labor leader. He built bridges from the often insular labor movement to all of the other major movements of his time—feminism, environmentalism, antiwar, civil rights. He was instrumental in building the occupational health and safety movement, the environmental health movement, and labor-environmental alliances, as well as in creating a new generation of worker-oriented occupational health professionals. Thousand of workers’ lives were spared as a result.
He was anti-corporate to the core. He thought that the drive for every-increasing profits was in fundamental conflict with public health, workers health and safety, and a sound environment. He feared that growing corporate power could lead to authoritarianism. The antidote was growing democratic unions with an active rank and file. Most of all, he thought we had it all backward: The purpose of life was not to toil until we dropped to enrich someone else. Rather it was to live life to its fullest by working less, not more.”
A wise man. Happy Labor Day.