What are the best states to work in? The worst? A new report from Oxfam answers those questions, looking at policies on wages, worker protection, and the right to organize.
The top five states are the District of Columbia, Washington state, California, Massachusetts, and Vermont. They are all among the 21 states that score perfectly on the right to organize, which looks at “Right-to-work laws, the ability of public employees to bargain for wages and bargain collectively, and the availability of project labor agreements for government contracts.”
The top states all vary as to wages—depressingly, “no state minimum wage exceeds even half of a living wage for a family of four with one parent working”—and worker protection policies, which include protections for women who are pregnant or breastfeeding, equal pay policies, paid sick leave, flexible scheduling protections, and strong sexual harassment policies. The bottom states, though, are universally terrible. North Carolina, Georgia, Alabama, Mississippi, and Virginia make up the bottom five, with Virginia at the very bottom of this particular sludge pit. That’s because “Virginia has the lowest ratio of minimum wage to a living wage, and only a basic equal pay law among all the labor laws in the index.”
The report also notes how states can jump up the rankings (spoiler alert—elections matter):
New Jersey made several major advances in labor legislation and regulations in 2018, most notably in passing its New Jersey Paid Sick Leave Act. Without these changes, New Jersey would have been ranked 16th, but thanks to them is now ranked 13th. The law follows on a trajectory of recent improvements in the labor environment, including one of the most advanced equal pay laws in the country, since the new governor and legislature have taken office. If this trajectory continues with an increase in the minimum wage to $11 per hour by the end of the year, New Jersey could jump in ranking to 8th in the nation.
So, where does your state rank?