‘Right of first refusal’ has wide worker support, report claims
- Sixty-nine percent of workers either strongly support or somewhat support a right of first refusal arrangement, according to a YouGov Blue survey commissioned by the Democracy Collaborative. Last week, the Democracy Collaborative, a progressive research group, released a report outlining a model for “right of first refusal” (sometimes called “right to own”), which could give workers the opportunity to purchase ownership stakes in their workplaces before they’re closed or sold off.
- Support for the arrangement crossed partisan lines, with a majority of Democrats, Republicans and Independents surveyed in favor of the idea. According to the survey, right of first refusal is also popular across racial and ethnic groups. Though support was strong in all age groups, 81% of participants 65 and older were in favor of a right of first refusal, the Democracy Collaborative said.
- “With these policies in place, societies will be far better positioned to prevent mass layoffs as a result of the so-called ‘silver tsunami’ of retiring baby-boomer owners of small-to-medium business enterprises,” wrote the report’s author Peter Gowan of potential right-of-first-refusal policies.
The discussion of right to own in the U.S. comes at a time when consolidation is reaching a fever pitch in several industries, like in digital journalism and in telecommunications. Proponents of worker buyout laws in Italy and Scotland, where such laws exist, believe that these arrangements lead to businesses that are more profitable and have a stronger survival rate in certain industries. 
Regardless of the future, the apparent popularity of worker ownership may further affirm the idea that workers are happier and more satisfied with their work when they have autonomy. Talent pros may not be able to give workers ownership of their organizations, but they can give them greater agency over their work by advocating for flexible work policies and outlining inclusivity plans in partnership with diverse colleagues to amplify the opinions, concerns and successes of those groups.