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88: Across the Aisle - A Bipartisan Approach to Employee Ownership

We continue with Part 2 of our interview with Pennsylvania State Representative Greg Rothman. In this episode, Rep. Rothman (R) shares why employee ownership is important to him, and how he plans to work across the aisle to make Pennsylvania a beacon for employee ownership. You can listen to Part 1 of our interview with Rep. Rothman in Mini-cast 56 here. You can get more details of the Institute for the Study of Employee Ownership and Profit Sharing at the Rutgers University School of Management and Labor Relations “Building the Assets of Low and Moderate Income Workers and their Families: The Role of Employee Ownership” report, which we reference in the introduction to this podcast, in Mini-cast 48 here.

We encourage you to write your representative and express your support for employee ownership. If you are in Pennsylvania, you can find your legislator's contact information here, and you can CC: PA State Representative Greg Rothman (R, 87th District) and PA State Representative Sara Innamorato (D, 21st District).

Shoutout, thanks, and congratulations to Mike Shuey on joining ESOP Avail Technologies in State College, PA. (Plus: We gave a callback shoutout to Daniel and Michael Schwab of D&H Distributing Company, which you can hear in Mini-cast 56.)


Episode 88 Transcript

Bret Keisling: 00:00 In today's episode, we have part two of our interview with Pennsylvania State Representative Greg Rothman. Here's a clip of what he's looking to do to grow employee ownership.

Greg Rothman: 00:09 I'd like to introduce some legislation, perhaps with a Representative Innamorato, that would make Pennsylvania, you know, put us in the forefront of employee ownership companies and create the incentives and create the, maybe, the tax incentives for doing it.

Bret Keisling: 00:25 I'm very excited to introduce Representative Rothman to the employee ownership community because my name's Bret Keisling and as it says on my business cards, I'm a passionate advocate for employee ownership, but I'm also a native Pennsylvanian!

Bitsy McCann: 00:39 Welcome to The EO Podcast where we amplify and celebrate all forms of employee ownership.

Bret Keisling: 00:49 Hello, my friends, thank you for listening. In last week's episode of The ESOP Mini-cast, Episode 56, we had help with a shoutout to D&H Distributing Company on the opening of their new headquarters in central Pennsylvania; State Representative Greg Rothman was kind enough to sit down with me and he had been to the grand opening of BNH and shared his thoughts and views. As I had said in that mini-cast, we had had an extended conversation and I'm going to bring you the balance of that conversation today. But before you listen to Representative Rothman, I would like to explain why I'm so excited about what I believe is going to start happening in Pennsylvania.

Bret Keisling: 01:30 I've known representative Rothman a number of years. You'll hear, by the way, throughout this episode that I do refer to him as Greg, in the mini-cast he had given me permission to do so. But I've known him many, many years and for the last couple of years when I've run into him, I'd say, I'd like to talk to you about employee ownership, and he was always willing to have a conversation, but I never had the opportunity to follow up and sit down with him. Last week I was preparing the mini-cast and I ran into him by happenstance and he happened to mention that he had been at the D&H grand opening. We started talking broadly about employee ownership and Greg's a huge supporter based on his own upbringing, his own business experiences, how he feels about his community and always has. I told him a dream I had had for employee ownership, and I shared this on a podcast a month or two ago [in Mini-cast 48], and that's the political leaders from both parties would come together, have town halls and discuss only employee ownership and that I thought in a time where it's very divisive nationally and often on the state and local levels, that employee ownership was the one issue that I thought could bring people together.

Bret Keisling: 02:42 Much to my surprise. Representative Rothman texted Representative Sara Innamorato of Pittsburgh and asked if she'd be interested in discussing a way to approach employee ownership from the right and left sides. Representative Rothman identifies himself, he is a Republican. He's also a conservative and free market capitalist as you'll hear in the episode and Representative Innamorato from Pittsburgh is a member of the Democratic party of Pennsylvania but also identifies as a socialist. I can't tell you how thrilled I was when Representative Rothman texted Representative Innamorato and asked how she would feel about a right and left approach to employee ownership, if you will, and she replied by text that collectives and employee ownership were her jam. As you'll hear Representative Rothman discuss, he certainly has strong opinions and he doesn't shy away from them, but what he understands is that we can all reach a common goal and a common purpose and have unity of vision where possible and that will lead to positive results for everyone. You're going to hear that he and Representative Innamorato already have worked together on legislation that they could agree on and I think that we are going to see some really great things starting to come out of Pennsylvania.

Bret Keisling: 04:17 But as Representative Innamorato had indicated that employee ownership or collectives are her jam, I thought I'd drop some knowledge for everyone! During the spring of 2019, the Institute for the Study of Employee Ownership and Profit Sharing at Rutgers School of Management and Labor Relations issued a comprehensive study that was three years in the making that provided lots of information to us about employee ownership. Quoting from that study: We know that assets enable people to remain stable through financial emergencies, have housing security, pursue a path to prosperity and upward mobility, advance through higher education for themselves or their children, take risks that result in a better job or starting a business, retire securely, pass on opportunity through intergenerational wealth building. Everybody would like to have assets that enable them to do all those things. Asset insecurity in the United States mean that only 7% of workers in low income families own employer stock compared to 20% in moderate income and 30% in high income families. 43.5% of all families and 60% of families of color are asset poor and they don't have enough liquid financial assets to sustain their households at or above poverty level for three months if they lose their income. Four in ten adults, if faced with an unexpected expense of $400 would either not be able to cover it or would cover it by selling something or borrowing money. 28% of senior citizens in the United States retiring between 51 and 61 had zero or negative financial assets when they die and 36% had less than five $50,000 in financial assets. 54% of all households lack sufficient financial assets to invest in opportunities that increase financial mobility, such as buying a home, creating a business, or investing in their children's education. And disparities in wealth holding are great. Women hold 68% less wealth than men. In 2016, white family wealth was seven times greater than black family wealth and five times greater than Hispanic family wealth. The study also found that low/moderate income workers have ESOP account values ranging from 15,000 to $6 million with a median value of $165,000. By contrast, the typical American household has just $17,000 in savings. So again, $17,000 in savings for the typical American median value of $165,000 for employee owners. Of the low/moderate income workers surveyed those closest to retirement ages, 60 to 64, have 10 times more wealth than the typical American in that age group.

Bret Keisling: 07:02 ESOPs don't eliminate gender and racial wealth inequality, but they significantly narrow the gaps. For me as I travel around and contemplate employee ownership and talk to lots and lots of people, and then of course, record the podcasts, I can't help but notice that many of the pressing issues in our country, certainly domestically, can often be addressed by employee ownership. So what's important to me is that we have people across the aisle who understand that employee ownership is good regardless of its form, ESOPs, Co Ops, collectives, and that they also understand that it does not matter why a supporter gets to employee ownership. It does not matter if you consider yourself a socialist. It does not matter if you consider yourself a free market capitalist. Or as I've taken to calling myself since I formed The KEISOP Group an inclusive capitalist. The important thing is that we all work together where we're able to.

Bret Keisling: 08:03 So for example, you may hear presidential candidates who speak of employee ownership and they come from the socialist perspective. It would be ideal if you set aside your viewpoints of any other issue they may support and, like me, appreciate their support for employee ownership. And similarly, if there is somebody who is on the far right politically and is a capitalist, but they support employee ownership, then for me, I'd rather focus on their support of employee ownership than disagreement that I have with any other issues. These are troubling times. Employee ownership can make our communities, our states, and our nation better and the way to do that is working together.

Bret Keisling: 08:49 Now, before I bring you the interview with Representative Rothman and I do have a couple of suggestions, I'm going to ask you to send a couple of emails wherever you're located. I am going to start with our regular feature...

Bitsy McCann: 09:00 Shoutouts, thanks, and congratulations!

Bret Keisling: 09:04 I want to give a congratulations to our good friend Mike Shuey. Mike is probably the most frequent guest we've had on the podcast. He's the president of the Pennsylvania/Delaware Chapter of The ESOP Association and Mike recently accepted a new position with Avail Technologies and I'm so happy to report it's partially employee owned, it's a partial ESOP. Avail Technologies is located in State College, Pennsylvania. The team provides industry leading products to mid-size transit operators throughout the United States insuring that their riders have a better experience. Now, before too long, we hope to have Mike on the podcast tell us all about Avail Technology and exactly what they do and hear about Mike's new position. But I've had many conversations, and I've been at lots of conferences with Mike. He's not just a podcast guest. He's a good friend of mine. And at conferences with other employee owners, there's always discussion that if you went to another position, how important was it that it be employee owned and I'm not surprised at all that Mike chose to join a new ESOP and it shows that his heart remains with employee ownership and just want to wish him well on his new job, hope he does great in State College, and hopefully when he catches his breath, perhaps he and a colleague can come on and tell us all about Avail Technologies.

Bret Keisling: 10:30 With that, the remaining part of the podcast is going to be the interview with Representative Rothman, but I do want to ask a favor. I think it would be very helpful if Representative Rothman and Representative Innamorato knew that there was strong support for employee ownership. There is some data that we can give. For example, in the Forbes list of five largest private companies in Pennsylvania, three of them, D&H, Distributing, Sheetz, and Wawa are all employee owned and I'm very delighted that state representatives such as Representative Rothman and hopefully before a long Representative Innamorato can join together for the jobs and the importance of Pennsylvania.

Bret Keisling: 11:14 So here's what I'd like you to do. We're going to include a link in the show notes to a website of the Pennsylvania state house of representatives where you can find your legislator. Look up your own state legislator and send them an email that simply says, I support employee ownership. If you want, you can explain why, but even just I support employee ownership and then CC, Representative Rothman and Representative Innamorato because your state representative may not understand why they're getting these emails, but they're certainly going to reach out to their colleagues on both sides of the aisle. And if you happen to be nationwide, I'd suggest that you write your own state representative as well and indicate your support for employee ownership. And since Representative Rothman has indicated, as he said at the top of the show that he would like Pennsylvania to be a beacon for employee ownership. Go ahead and CC him if you're out of state on the email to your state representative as well and let him see nationwide the support there is and perhaps CC Representative Innamorato and again the your email addresses will be on our show notes and then finally if you'd like to CC or BCC me at The KEISOP Group, I'll be happy to give shoutouts to anybody who reaches out to their state representative. And again, my goal is to simply have you indicate support for employee ownership.

Bret Keisling: 12:42 With that, I'm going to turn to the interview with Representative Rothman as I believe I mentioned earlier. I have known him quite a while and he did say that I could call him Greg. So I don't want you to think there was any lack of respect on my part. And I'm going to ask as you listen, I think it's a very interesting interview, but I would understand if some are outside of central Pennsylvania or Pennsylvania, we do talk with specificity about the central Pennsylvania area, but just as we had a podcast last week about what companies in Cedar Rapids, Iowa are doing, I think the interview with Greg stands on its own. It's interesting, he's a fascinating person with a lot of experiences. Second generation family business owner, 10 year career with the Marine Corps. State representative. But as you listen and as you hear some of the central Pennsylvania organizations we might be talking about, or companies, or civic leaders, think about who in your areas might be similar and how you could apply what we're talking about in central Pennsylvania in your area. And then the other thing that I would ask is give some thought to who might be likely candidates to champion employee ownership in your states or your communities. And please remember this shouldn't be a partisan issue. I'd hate to see any one party pass significant legislation that benefits employee ownership, but pass it in such a way that the other side feels the need to dismantle it at some point down the road. As you, my listener, support employee ownership. I hope that you'll do so on a bipartisan basis because ultimately that's what's going to grow the sandbox.

Bret Keisling: 14:18 One final note, the podcast is longer than I had intended. We originally expected that we would have Kevin Sensenig of Interaction Dynamics Group and Jenn Krieger from Weaver CPA come on. We were going to introduce you to Kevin. We're going to hold that 'til next week's episode so that we can give the full attention to Representative Rothman. Our regular listeners will remember the shout out for D&H Distributing and the family that runs the business, the Schwab family and we speak of Daniel and Michael Schwab, and I just wanted to mention those names now because for the full context, you can refer back to last week's Mini cast [Mini-cast 56]. That way we don't repeat the same information. So with that, without any further ado and with my great appreciation for all the time he spent with me, here's Representative Greg Rothman in part two of our interview

Bret Keisling: 15:12 In a regional approach. You are the state representative from Cumberland County, and mention your district,

Greg Rothman: 15:17 The 87th District, which is all in Cumberland County.

Bret Keisling: 15:21 And for those who know central Pennsylvania, on the other side of the Susquehanna river is Dauphin County where Harrisburg is located, the state capital and D&H has headquarters is in Lower Paxton, which is a pretty bustling suburb of Harrisburg. D&H for generations had their headquarters in Harrisburg and although they didn't stay within the city limits, they've moved to Lower Paxton. They stayed in the region. Does that have resonance with you as a state representative from the other side of the river?

Greg Rothman: 15:50 Yeah, so, so I was born in Lower Paxton Township where their new headquarters are. I spent my summer, my Saturday mornings at the YMCAs downtown and my Sundays at Market Square Presbyterian right in Market Square. And until I graduated from college and came back here, I saw the river, I still see the river, as what we have in common. The city of Harrisburg to me has always been the heart of the region. And just like your body, you need a strong heart and the suburbs are your limbs. And I moved to Cumberland County when I was two years old, my parents moved us to Cumberland County, but my grandparents still lived in Lower Paxton Township and I never saw the river as a dividing place. We are the Capital Region. It's unique that we're the state capital, but our city, population-wise, is only less than 50,000 people. So, and D&H has headquarters on Seventh Street was probably a mile from the Susquehanna -- maybe me less than a mile from, a couple blocks from --Susquehanna Township.

Bret Keisling: 16:49 And I think that we were actually very lucky that they stayed there as long as they did.

Greg Rothman: 16:54 70-some years I think they were there.

Bret Keisling: 16:56 And that was just, they had outgrown that, and infrastructure... and that's not a knock on anything. The one thing Greg, about small communities, and in last week's podcast [EO Podcast Ep. 87], I did shoutouts to companies in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. But there is a sense of community. I grew up in Susquehanna Township, which you mentioned is very close, it abuts Harrisburg, but for seven years at Capital Trustees, my office was right across the street from the Market Street Presbyterian Church.

Greg Rothman: 17:22 That's right, sure.

Bret Keisling: 17:22 So as I've relocated now to Denver, but obviously we're speaking in Lemoyne, Pennsylvania right outside of Harrisburg, the connections to community, and this is part of employee ownership, really run deep for all of us, right?

Greg Rothman: 17:34 When I went to Johns Hopkins for graduate school, I got a masters degree in real estate, and I did a study on the city of Harrisburg and there had been a book that was written about cities dying and Harrisburg was listed as one of the dying cities. And I refuted what was the premise of the book because what happened was people, starting, I think in the 60s maybe even in the 50s but certainly escalated with the hurricane Agnes in the early seventies/late sixties, people started moving out of the city. But what the author of that book missed completely was they didn't move far. They moved a mile.

Bret Keisling: 18:04 That's an excellent point.

Greg Rothman: 18:05 Yeah, they moved across the river, which is a mile wide. The Susquehanna river is, I think the widest river east of the Mississippi and it's a mile wide at it's widest point. They moved a mile over to, you know, where I represent, in East Pennsboro Township or Hampden Township or Camp Hill Borough and they moved to Susquehanna Township and Lower Paxton Township. It's not unusual. And it's interesting because now cities like San Francisco are having a phenomenon where it used to be that you lived in the suburbs and commuted into the city. Now young people are moving into the city of San Francisco and community and out to the suburbs, Palo Alto and Cupertino or where all the Facebook and Apple and all the tech companies are, the Silicon Valley, is where people work, but they live in the cities. And so I'm a huge fan of the city of Harrisburg. I, actually, Dan Schwab and my friendship really grew and became, came strong when he was one of five founders with me of the Harrisburg Young Professionals. He and his wife Patty. And so we both were in the same place. We were coming to work for a family business. I went to school in Massachusetts and in Baltimore and I mean coming back here and knew I was going to be here and wanted to make Harrisburg a great place because I had grown up here and I think Dan shared that and he's just as committed to the region as anybody. And I think staying in Lower Paxton and township shows that. and they talked about that at their opening, too. And it's great for their employees. This is a great place to live. I think the state of Pennsylvania is the best state in the union. I think central Pennsylvania is the best part of Pennsylvania,

Bret Keisling: 19:30 I had forgotten that you were one of the founders of Harrisburg Young Professionals and I probably didn't know that Dan Schwab was, and I could get excited about a whole podcast for Harrisburg Young Professionals, because you created an organization that still thrives today. The Young Professionals gather together and are vested and, and very, very active in athletics and social causes and helping the community. And that happens to be something that if employee owned companies could find a way to set up that kind of organization in communities. First of all, congratulations and thank you.

Greg Rothman: 20:05 Well, yeah, and they just celebrated their 20th anniversary. We started it in 1998/1999. I was the second president. And it's the same concept as employee ownership. We said in order to get young people and we -- look, we still have problems in Pennsylvania. We have brain drain. I mean I've got a daughter in New York City and a son in Los Angeles, so my family is living it too. But young people come to Pennsylvania to go to school and we would joke that Pennsylvania is an importer of students. They come for our great colleges and universities and then they leave and they take one of our natives with them. So we thought that in order to get young people involved in the city of Harrisburg and in the region, they needed ownership. They needed to be part of stuff. So we would plug them into community organizations and plug them into, we elected a couple HYP members to city council, Otto Banks and Eric Waters. We got them involved in the political process. Alex Hartzler, who was one of the founders, is heavily involved in statewide politics and I was of course too, and to get them involved in charitable organizations and philanthropic endeavors. And so we wanted to give them ownership and community is such an important part of the American experience. And if you have a place that you feel like you're invested in and you have ownership in, then you're more likely to stay and you're more likely to help it thrive. And I see a direct correlation to employee ownership. It's the same concept.

Bret Keisling: 21:32 And Greg, one of the things that I like about what you just said and I want to circle back to you made a point that I thought was great about people left Harrisburg but they didn't go far. And to me that says a lot of the community and the region and that sort of thing. That's not for us to sidestep all of the important, serious societal issues that led into people also leaving cities and the repercussions that Harrisburg still deals with and many do. And what I like about it, in other words, I wanted to acknowledge we didn't go far and there were people like yourself who were working on the community, but Harrisburg Young Professionals was -- is -- so much more than just a networking group. They're working to address some of the important problems that arose from people leaving the city.

Greg Rothman: 22:18 Yeah. And what happens is your tax base leaves. What happens is the people who are concerned and interested in making sure that the city is thriving leave. And, you know, our biggest challenge I still think to this day is that the public education system in Harrisburg and city schools, they, it's been at least my entire professional life - so 30 years - of struggling to get, make sure those kids have opportunity. And we know education is part of the opportunity. And if we're failing those children, literally failing those children, then that hurts too. So I know when I was involved in HYP and I'm no longer young, so we did, we did tutoring with the kids. There's still a thriving Big Brothers/Big Sisters group. I'm still involved in Boys and Girls Club was on their board. I still support them financially and my family does as well. But cities are a special, a special place. And American cities are a little different because American cities almost, you do have a situation where it incubates and people start there and then they end up leaving and they go to the suburbs. And a lot of young families would leave. I mean I sold a lot of houses in the city of Harrisburg to young couples and young professionals and then they started having children and they came to school age, and they didn't want to keep them in the city schools.

Bret Keisling: 23:31 And everything's tied together. And let me now if I can, let's bring it back to employee ownership. You're a state representative. You mentioned that you're a former Marine and, and sincerely thank you for your service throughout your life. You went to Johns Hopkins, I happened to know you as the head -- and I'm not sure, second, third generation -- of a family owned business that now you treat as an employee owned business, though not technically an ESOP. All of that is connected, I imagine, to why you've become so passionate about employee ownership. Could you just tell us your story?

Greg Rothman: 24:05 I started, my father grew up on a farm in Lower Paxton Township. His father was a farmer and worked at state government, which a lot of people had multiple jobs in those days. And my father went to Penn State and wanted to be in real estate and became a real estate broker and a developer. I knew from the time I was probably five or six years old, I wanted to work with my father. I didn't even necessarily know what he did. I just wanted to do what he did and wanted to be around him. And so when I graduated from college, I started working at RSR, RSR Realtors. We're celebrating our 50th year in business, in January, we'll be 50 years old.

Bret Keisling: 24:45 And college was Johns Hopkins.

Greg Rothman: 24:46 I went to UMass Amherst, University of Massachusetts, Amherst for undergrad and then Hopkins for graduate school. I made $8,000 my first year in real estate, 1989. And that was all by myself. It was -- real estate's a tough business. It's all commission. And the way that our company, most real estate companies, are run, you have independent contractors that receive a percentage of whatever they bring in. So it was always a, you know, you sort of eat what you kill. And our company in particular, we had a lot of people who came to work for us that my father helped mentor, I guess, who would then go out and start their own company. So I said to my father, you know, you've got people coming to work for us that went out and started their own companies. Why not figure out a way to keep them here? And so, I mean, it was a little bit of my self interest because I was just an agent at the time and I wanted to be a partner. And so we started a partnership track where our agents could become ownership. And so now we have four since me that, and these were top producers, that could have gone out and started their own company. But my father said, which was really smart in saying this, I get people and I want people that want to own their own company someday. I mean those are the types of people that are successful in business. And it really is the American dream. And we never had non-compete causes or, you know, we encourage people to just grow their own businesses within our company and it's natural that they want to own their own business. So that seems to me, you know, in a much smaller level that, you know, what we really created was, in some sense, an employee owned company as well.

Bret Keisling: 26:18 Well, and certainly the culture of one. And I think that's the hallmark. And you saw the D&H and you know from, from Dan Schwab and Mike, but what you've tried to replicate it seems looking from the outside is that culture where people could go somewhere.

Greg Rothman: 26:32 Absolutely.

Bret Keisling: 26:32 They want to stay.

Greg Rothman: 26:34 Yeah. And that's ownership and whether you're literal ownership or feeling like you're part of something bigger than yourself and that. We are, I mean, that's what's great about capitalism too. In that the system of capitalism allows people to be rewarded for their hard work. And that's what makes Pennsylvania really special. We have the best labor force in the world right here in Pennsylvania and we have since, you know, the turn of the century or maybe since William Penn chartered us, right? I mean that's, that people came here who wanted to work!

Bret Keisling: 27:05 Take your hat off where you're friends with the Schwabs and put your state representative hat on. D&H could, in a heartbeat, sell out to a major international conglomerate. D&H it's just in terms of size and what they do and that sort of thing. Why is it important as a state legislator that companies like that remain employee owned and you know them on a personal level, why is that important?

Greg Rothman: 27:34 Yeah, well, you've seen it with other companies and not to name names, but you've seen companies that were local, started here, and I can name a huge one: Amp. And as they get bought out, or as they sell then the headquarters leave. I mean, Rite Aid was in the middle of, Rite Aid based in my district. Started here in central Pennsylvania. I think Steelton was their first store, the Grass family.

Bret Keisling: 27:57 And, by the way, the Grass family was Susquehanna township. It's a small community so they were my friends, you know, growing up...

Greg Rothman: 28:02 Yeah, it's a small town. So we understand, I understand, that our employers are these great companies that are based in central Pennsylvania. Really it's what feeds the government. I mean, it feeds, it creates the taxes, it creates the revenues that we then get to use to educate our children, to provide the social services, and build the roads and create the infrastructure. So it's important for them to be here. And Hershey's another great example. I mean Hershey, Hershey Foods, and Hershey Entertainment and all they do for the community. We couldn't survive without, without those, not just the jobs they provide, but what they do for the community.

Bret Keisling: 28:37 The Hershey Company and we, all of us, know that locally, but the vast majority of the profits, and I don't know the setup, but if not all of it go to the Milton Hershey School.

Greg Rothman: 28:48 I think that, yeah, the trust, the Milton Hershey Trust that he set up still has a large percentage of the ownership of the company, shares in the company and that does go to, to help the, the Milton Hershey school.

Bret Keisling: 29:01 And thanks, you're right. It's actually a publicly traded company. So it's the shares in the trust that benefit, but that's also culture and that's the tie-in to business and employee ownership.

Greg Rothman: 29:09 Well, and you look at the companies like D&H and Hershey Foods, you have people work there for their entire career. And that's sort of... we talked about baseball before. I mean, you don't have baseball players anymore that get signed by a team, go through the minor league, end up with the team, who spend their whole career there. Now, one of the guys is Ryan Zimmerman who's playing for the Nationals. I mean, he came up through the system and is now going to win a World Series with the Nationals. So companies are the same thing and yet with all the competition, people don't say, well, I'm going to stay for the same company for my entire career. I mean, I did and you know, that's a great blessing too. But, we need that culture too because that stability helps community and helps make the community strong.

Bret Keisling: 29:51 We know that employee ownership is the only bipartisan issue that has support from every political direction. Whether one is like yourself on the conservative side and a business person -- I don't mean to characterize you in any way....

Greg Rothman: 30:05 No, that's fine. [Laughter.]

Bret Keisling: 30:06 But to those on the left or far left that maybe have a different reason or approach. What I like about statewide officials is you folks have your political alliances and whatnot, but you in particular seem happy to work across the aisle to find the common good, like employee ownership.

Greg Rothman: 30:26 Absolutely. And I reached out earlier today to Sara Innamorato, she's a state representative from the Pittsburgh area. She's a socialist...

Bret Keisling: 30:36 And she identifies as a socialist....

Greg Rothman: 30:38 She identifies as, it's not a pejorative...

Bret Keisling: 30:40 And you identify as a conservative...

Greg Rothman: 30:40 I'm a capitalist. I'm a free market, free enterprise capitalist. But you know what, she's a serious policymaker. She believes in what she speaks. And I reached out to her and her response was that, you know, cooperatives and employee ownership is her jam, which I had to consult. Well, I had to consult you what that meant.

Bret Keisling: 31:01 What I take that to mean is before too long, you and Representative Innamorato will be kind enough to come on the podcast and share your views of why employee ownership is good from every political perspective. But that's just my hope.

Greg Rothman: 31:14 No, I think that certainly is possible. She and I are working on an electronic license plate reader bill for privacy and to protect people's privacy from license plate readers. But look, my perspective is that the 203 members of the state house and the 50 senators, so the 253 members of the general assembly, all have the same, want the same result, which is people to have good paying jobs, to be able to support their families, to do what they want to do, and to have opportunity. And that starts with education and goes all the way up through, you know, careers and vocations and jobs. And I've been fortunate because every job I've ever had, I loved. And, and loving your job. It doesn't make it work. Doesn't make it you don't -- I never ever woke up and didn't want to go to work. And now as a state representative, it's the same thing. I love what I'm doing. And that's what I try to teach my children, love what you do. And whether it's you know, shoveling horse manure, which I love doing, or, you know, washing dishes, which I love doing...

Bret Keisling: 32:16 And by the way, you don't mean that at the state house [laughing] you mean on the farm.

Greg Rothman: 32:19 Well, no, yeah, yeah. But, look, I think that there is, is you have to do all the work. I mean, I, as you said, I've spent 10 years in the Marine Corps. What I loved about the Marine Corps, I never had a position where I was leading men or women that I asked them to do something I hadn't already done myself. And the Marine Corps is set up that way, that have to do every job as you move up. And I think sometimes we lose sight of that. The other thing I really have come to -- the difference between politics and the Marine Corps and especially when it comes to elected officials, which was in the Marine Corps, that when you got promoted to a job and you had a new position, the first thing you did was learn the job of the person above you. Because in a combat situation, you may have to step into those...

Bret Keisling: 33:04 That just very practical and pragmatic...

Greg Rothman: 33:05 And the second most important thing you did was to train a person to do your job. And sometimes politicians are like, "Oh, I don't want to give all the secrets out, that person may run against me or take my job." Well, no, this is democracy, I want to make sure there's someone who can do what I can do! So I will work with anybody who wants to make Pennsylvania better. But my personality, too, is to try to find out what we have in common. And with Sara there are some things we do have in common.

Bret Keisling: 33:32 Do me a favor and just explain for a moment, because it's not employee ownership, but it's an example of setting aside ideology for the best. Go back to the license plate reader and just explain for a moment what it is you're doing and why you on the Republican side and a self-described socialist coming at it, I assume, from a couple of different angles but that's an issue that's for the common good.

Greg Rothman: 33:55 Yeah, so right now the technology exists, and our local police are using it, where they have license plate readers set up where they can see who's coming and going and they use it for, you know, crime fighting or Amber Alerts or if you had a crime they wanted to solve...

Bret Keisling: 34:09 And if your license plate has been expired.

Greg Rothman: 34:11 Well, yeah. And my thought is that if you're using it for legitimate law enforcement purposes, it's okay. But there's no reason to keep the data forever. And there's no reason that there shouldn't be some kind of regulation on what the data can be used for. And so I introduced legislation, it passed two sessions ago and it passed last session and this session where we're trying to get it passed again, it passed the house, but it died in the Senate, or didn't get taken up in the Senate. And so Sara and I are on the transportation committee together. And she, we had a hearing and she had some ideas and one of her ideas was my bill said, you can only keep the data for a year. She said, well, can we make that 30 days or 90 days? And well, of course you can. I mean, maybe that's what we should do. So, you know, her interests are privacy and the rights of the people who are, you know, we sort of live in a, in a Big Brother world and I think that's where someone on the far left and some on the far right -- or not on the far right -- but someone who's, who's more conservative would say, yeah, I'm not sure I want government watching my every move.

Bret Keisling: 35:13 There may be a political discussion on some level about the rights of law enforcement and that sort of thing. But the commonality between you and Sara is actually the privacy aspect.

Greg Rothman: 35:26 Absolutely.

Bret Keisling: 35:27 You started with no reason, perfectly good reason to have it, no reason to keep the data for a year. She was, why do we have it that long? And so the point is you're supporting law enforcement, but it's really looking at for the privacy of all of us.

Greg Rothman: 35:41 Yeah. And it's a balance and it has to be a balance in a free civil society like this. You have to, you balance those. I have a bill that would allow scooters, you know, like Birds and Lime that are all in every major city in the country but are not in Pennsylvania, because they're not legal in Pennsylvania. So I introduced legislation to legalize it with a Philadelphia Democrat, Stephen Kinsey, who's my best friend in the legislature. He represents a district, Germantown, Pennsylvania, that's 91% Democrat. But first of all, we don't talk politics a lot. He's just a good friend. And I, I genuinely that we have affection and we like each other. That's what most friends are about. It's not about politics. So we introduced the bill together and Sara had some ideas on how to make this transportation more accessible for some people in her district. And so we're working together on that. And I think that one of the things I've been pleasantly surprised about Harrisburg is that you do have legislators who are from different sides of the aisle or different ideology. We represent, it's a very diverse state, so you have rural legislators working with inner city legislators, trying to come up with solutions that work for all the districts and we, there's much more civility and kindness and collegiality in the legislature then you maybe see in the newspapers.

Bret Keisling: 36:58 I'm very glad to hear that. I really appreciate your time. You were kind enough to come on for a couple of minutes to talk about the D&H and stay for quite awhile. Representative Greg Rothman, and I disclose stuff -- not that it's particularly relevant -- but liked you enough when you first ran that I've donated a couple of times, and for any political people listening, very tiny amounts that came infrequently -- but I have a lot of respect for you. And I'm looking forward to the way timing works. You happen to be with D&H yesterday, then candidly, you and I have spent some time this evening talking employee ownership and I get the feeling that you and your colleagues are going to use some energy to look at what you might be able to do to help grow the sandbox.

Greg Rothman: 37:42 Absolutely. I'd like to introduce some legislation, perhaps with Representative Innamorato, that would make Pennsylvania, you know, put us in the forefront of employee ownership companies and create the incentives and create the, maybe, the tax incentives for doing it. And that's, I mean, that's sort of why I'm there. I want to do good things and, you know, do things that are worth doing.

Bret Keisling: 38:06 Well, Greg, I'm very lucky that I've done about 150 of these podcasts. One of my guests is Kevin McPhillips, who's the executive director of the Pennsylvania Center for Employee Ownership. He was instrumental in the Pittsburgh city council adopting a promotion, I shouldn't say promotion, but a task force to promote employee ownership. That's where Representative Innamorato is from. So I'll do an introduction to you with Kevin McPhillips. And The ESOP Association has a Pennsylvania/Delaware Chapter, Mike Restek who's been on my podcast a dozen times -- or I'm sorry Mike Shuey. I promise you, without having reached out to them, the PaCEO and The ESOP Association and another group called the Employee Ownership Exchange would do anything to help you and your colleagues help promote employee ownership.

Greg Rothman: 38:55 So if you want to follow what we're doing, you can go to my website which is RepRothman, R, O, T, H, M, A, [] and you can sign up for alerts in our newsletters and find out what we're doing in the legislature.

Bret Keisling: 39:05 Greg, I really appreciate it. Representative Rothman, we're going to include a link to that in our show notes and hopefully the employee ownership will start following you. I will say to the tens of thousands of employee owners in Pennsylvania, I think that you should follow Representative Rothman and before long Representative Innamorato, but let them know that employee ownership in Pennsylvania is important to you so that they have the encouragement to go to the, to your colleagues. So we'll, we'll have our folks reach out. Greg, thank you very much for your time. Thank you for your service throughout your life and everything you've done to just make a central Pennsylvania, Pennsylvania, and the United States a better place.

Greg Rothman: 39:42 Thank you. Thanks for having me.

Bret Keisling: 39:44 The views expressed herein are my own and don't represent those of my own firms or the organizations to which I belong. Nothing in the podcast should be construed as guidance or advice of any kind in any field, and the fact that I mentioned an organizational website or an advocate or a company on a podcast does not reflect an endorsement. But if you've heard your name or your group's name mentioned on this podcast, I'd love to have you come on and talk about it yourself!

Bitsy McCann: 40:08 We'd love to hear from you! To contact us, find us on Facebook at KEISOP, LLC and on Twitter @ESOPPodcast. To reach Bret, with one "T", email, on LinkedIn at Bret Keisling, and most actively on Twitter at @EO_Bret. Again, that's one "T". This podcast has been produced by The KEISOP Group, technical assistance provided by Third Circle, Inc. and BitsyPlus Design. Original music composed by Max Keisling, archival podcast material edited and produced by Brian Keisling. And I'm Bitsy McCann.

Bret Keisling: 40:41 My name is Bret Keisling. Thanks for listening.


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