Socialism is better at making normal people rich.

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

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.

Now’s the time to worry though. Our capitalism has done what it’s supposed to - bestow a handful of people with unimaginable wealth and power. The rest of the country is on its own. Most people would have trouble swinging a minor unplanned medical expense. Forget about a dignified retirement. That smoke and heat you can’t escape? Be thankful for it now. It’ll be much worst in the years to come. It’s all a natural outcome of late-stage capitalism.

The anti-dote is worker power. And it’s doing what everyone was told capitalism would do.

For more reading on this, I highly recommend checking out New Means by my friend Josh.

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Video Transcript

You get more millionaires with socialism guys. I said it. Socialism is better and making normal people rich. And I say that because there is a gas station where 175 millionaires work.

The gas station is Stewart's. It's in upstate New York and Vermont. And 175 of their employees are millionaires because Stewart's is an employee stock ownership plan. The workers actually own the company. And if that sounds familiar, that is because it's the socialism. The workers own those freakin' means of production. You know what I'm saying?

Some people say that an ESOP is not socialism. And to those people, I say, "Whatever, dude."

There are 3000 active employees across 345 stores. 40% of Stewart's is owned by the employees, which means there's a big bucket of company stock that, instead of being pushed around and gobbled up by Titans on Wall Street, nom nom, nom, nom, nom, nom, it is owned by the humble ice cream scooper. And 175 of them are millionaires because they own the damn scooper.

75% of the millionaires started out hourly at Stewart's and a third of them still are hourly. Back in 2018, over 1,000 of those workers had more than $100,000 in their retirement accounts which begs the question, do you have that much money in your account? Because the median retirement savings in America is $65,000, dude.

Stack, after stack, after stack, has been racked by these workers. Whatever it is you're doing in the god lovin' free market out there, is it stacking like this is? Because the people humpin' and pumpin' down at your local commie gas station have got that bag.

That's what this is all about right? Getting rich. Drinkin' beers. Rippin' shit on a badass Jetski. That's the dream. And that dream's a reality at your local commie gas station.

In 2019 there was double-digit growth on the employee stock and a 17.5 million dollar ESOP contribution. In 2022, double-digit growth and a 19.5 million dollar contribution. You get in the program by working 1000 hours and after you work there six years, there's usually a whole years freakin' paycheck in the bank, thank you very much.

You guys. This is a freakin' gas station. It's not engineering, or banking, or pharma. Right, Sophie? No six-figure degrees. No magic. It's a freakin' commie gas station with ice cream. And they're dishing out millionaires. Scope by freakin' scoop.

Does your job do that? Can you become a millionaire by doing what you're doing right now? Be honest. Do you have more money saved than somebody who works at this gas station? You could but you got to own those means bud.

The Holler
The Holler
John Russell