A new index released by Oxfam has ranked Washington, DC, along with the 50 US states based on their policies around minimum wages, health and safety, leave, etc—which could be used as a surrogate for the well-being of the labor force. Virginia ranked last and Washington, DC, led the list.
A new index released by Oxfam, a global organization that has a mission of ending poverty, has ranked Washington, DC, along with the 50 US states based on their policies around minimum wages, health and safety, leave, etc—which could be used as a surrogate for the well-being of the labor force. Virginia ranked last and Washington, DC, led the list.
Based on 3 factors—wages, workers protections, and right to organize laws—the ranking has a correlation with quality of life: citizens of the higher-ranking states have greater life expectancy. Importantly, the report states that the minimum wage in the United States does not approach a living wage for a family of 4, and several states have not yet passed laws that provide paid sick and family leave or fair scheduling laws.
Key findings from the bottom 3 states
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 hourly minimum wage in the state is $7.25, meaning about $15,080 annually. While workers here are not assured of paid family and sick leave and lack the state’s support for best practices in work schedules, being a right-to-work state—Virginia was one of the first states to pass the law in 1947—prevents workers from forming unions.
The state ranks 42nd in the Wage Dimension, which provides insight on which states need a wage closest to the living wage and also helps localities hone in on a minimum wage. However, it ranks last on the Worker Protection dimension, an indicator of the quality of life of workers and their families. At 21.1%, Mississippi leads the poverty rate in the country.
At 49, the state ranks 2 levels above Virginia in the Wage Dimension and comes in at number 48 for Worker Protection. As for Right to Organize, which includes the right-to-work laws, workers ability to bargain collectively for wages, and access to labor agreements for government contracts, the state comes in at 45.
Key findings from the top 3 states
Coming in at number 3 is California, which falls just behind Hawaii for the highest life expectancy in the country: 80.9 years. It does, however, fall to number 6 for the Wage Dimension but leads the table for the Worker Protection dimension, beating Washington, DC, based on a policy that promotes gender equal pay practice.
The state beats the District of Colunbia and comes in at number 1 for the Wage Dimension but falls significantly behind on the Worker Protection Dimension (ranks at 10).
1. Washington, DC
Workers in the District of Columbia are guaranteed protections for sexual harassment, they can avail of paid sick and family leave (which are mandatory), and have accommodations for pregnancy and the right to pump. The minimum wage in the country’s capital is $13.25 per hour ($27,560 annual).
Overall, the analysis identified a positive correlation between high scores and lower rates of infant mortality and poverty, higher rates of life expectancy, median income, gross domestic product per capita, and labor force participation rates. The authors of the report make a point to underscore the lack of progress in states on paid sick and family leave and fair scheduling laws.