A Profit-Sharing Proposal

A cartoon of a stack of cash on a plate being sliced in two, with one half being picked up by a cake slicer.

If you pay any attention to economic news, you’re aware that the US stock market is flourishing, profits are high and rising for a large number of US businesses, worker productivity has increased tremendously, and worker wages are…stagnant. Or worse. Depending on how worker income is measured in relation to cost of living, the buying power of worker incomes has fallen substantially over several decades. There is no silver bullet, no magic fix, but there are many possibilities for remedying the situation. LaGuardia Community College student Qing Zhang is proposing in this essay that profit sharing could go a long way towards helping workers and the economy at the same time.

Read it here.


1. What, according to Zhang, is the relationship between profit sharing and honesty? Summarize her explanation. Is her argument promoting profit sharing persuasive? Why or why not? Explain your response and point to examples from the essay to support your conclusion.

2. Zhang uses quotations and paraphrases from several academic sources. Are you easily able to distinguish between the words and ideas of her sources and Zhang’s own words and ideas? Why or why not? What rhetorical techniques does Zhang use to maintain a clear distinction? 

3. LET’S TALK. You may or may not ever have an opportunity to work at a company that offers profit sharing or that is (partially or completely) employee-owned, but you almost certainly can buy goods or services from such companies. In addition to the yogurt company, Chobani, that Zhang mentions, other companies you’re already familiar with—Proctor & Gamble, Delta Airlines and Southwest Airlines, among many others—are either employee-owned or have profit sharing programs. (By the way, W. W. Norton, the publisher of Let’s Talk and this website, is 100% employee owned.) Would you make profit sharing (or other employment practices) a consideration when shopping for yogurt, shampoo, or even plane tickets? Why or why not? Talk with a few classmates about how you make consumer decisions and to what extent you deliberately support companies with reputations for treating employees well.  

4. AND NOW WRITE. Zhang starts right off with the premise that income inequality is a problem that needs to be resolved. Do you agree? Why or why not? Does the US’s current high level of income inequality damage quality of life? Is the inequality simply an acceptable condition of a healthy economy? Write an essay that addresses these questions, drawing on academic sources to support your argument. (You may want to start with Zhang’s bibliography to give you some leads.)

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