Before Labor Day, Oxfam America published its annual report Index of the best states to work, a robust database and interactive map that measures working family support policies in all 50 states, plus Washington, DC and Puerto Rico. Arizona ranks 41st. Last year, Arizona was ranked 42nd. The report also ranked Arizona 20th for its policies to protect and support workers and their families. Last year, Arizona ranked No. 22.
This year’s index comes at a time when workers face daunting challenges at work and in their communities: historic levels of inflation that are eroding real wages, an ongoing pandemic, landmark court rulings supreme over fundamental rights, suppression of union organizing efforts and worries about the economy and potential unemployment.
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“This is a perilous time for millions of working families in the United States, struggling every day to make ends meet,” said Oxfam researcher Dr Kaitlyn Henderson. “While some states have stepped up to protect and support working families, others have refused to act, leaving workers with poverty wages, dangerous conditions and no right to organize or act collectively. . This is the reality of life in our country and the urgent need for federal action.
The “best” state on the index is Oregon, followed by California, Washington, the District of Columbia and New York. The five “worst” states are North Carolina (bottom), Mississippi, Georgia, Alabama and Texas.
Since 2018, the Index of the best states to work monitored policies in three areas: wages, worker protections and the right to organise. This year, Oxfam added a data point that reflects the extraordinary challenges workers face in a changing climate, tracking which states have implemented a thermal safety standard for outdoor workers (just three: Oregon, California and Washington). As millions of workers toil in extreme heat, simple protections such as shade, water and breaks are essential. Although the federal government has announced its intention to establish a national heat standard, it could take about eight years to do so. Meanwhile, about 400 people have died from occupational heat exposure over the past decade, which is likely an underestimate.
“The federal government has failed American workers, refusing for decades to enact labor law updates – as a result, it is up to the states to improve wages, working conditions and rights,” said Henderson said. “Fortunately, there is important work going on at the state level that deserves to be celebrated; and it is essential to recognize that these policies are the direct result of workers organizing and demanding change for years.
Since the 2021 Index, activists have achieved improvements in several states, including:
Louisiana passed pregnancy accommodations for private sector workers, protecting pregnant workers from losing their jobs or being asked to perform tasks that were too strenuous.
Connecticut and Maryland have adopted paid family leave, allowing workers to take paid leave for various family situations (such as starting or expanding a family by birth or adoption, caring for a family with a medical severe).
New Mexico has passed paid sick leave, protecting workers from job loss and ensuring financial support when they take time off to recover from illness or care for a fallen loved one. sick.
Nevada passed new legislation preventing private-sector employers from requesting past salary information from their new hires, allowing for greater pay equity.
Alongside the Index, Oxfam has also published the second edition of the Best States for Working Women, which ranks states according to gender-specific protections (such as equal pay and pregnancy accommodation). In this ranking, Oregon leads, followed by California, New York, Washington and Connecticut. The worst states are North Carolina, followed by Georgia, Alabama, Mississippi and Texas. The Working Women’s Index is particularly important in a year that has seen both the overturning of Roe v. Wade by the United States Supreme Court and the failure to pass the Build Back Better program, which would have invested billions of federal dollars in child care.
“It’s not surprising, but it’s painful, that many of the worst states for working women are those who jumped at the chance to limit or deny women’s access to abortion once Roe knocked down,” Henderson said. “The worst states for working women do not mandate any type of paid leave (including maternity leave), allow below-poverty wages, and do not mandate appropriate accommodations for pregnant or nursing workers. Without access to these protections, workers who become pregnant will have to choose between their job and their health. So while lawmakers in these states will limit a woman’s reproductive rights, they will not make workplaces safe once she conceives or even after she gives birth. The hypocrisy is undeniable.
One of the states that does better in the female index than in the regular index is Hawaii (#10 for females vs. #19 for regulars); it is the only state that created a feminist economic stimulus package with the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Although the index ranks states solely on the basis of labor policies, it is increasingly clear that performing well on these data points means states are doing well on other measures of resident well-being. . The 2022 report offers correlations with three important indicators: poverty levels, child mortality and food insecurity. Working families – and the economy – thrive when workers are guaranteed better wages, protections and rights.
Oxfam recommends that the following policies be enacted as a matter of urgency:
Raising wages: The federal minimum wage has not been raised by $7.25 an hour since 2009. Both at the state and federal levels, Oxfam is calling on policy makers to raise wages: abolish tipped wages, put end exclusions from the minimum wage for certain workers and raise the minimum wage. The Wage Increase Act would accomplish all of this at the federal level. At the state level, 30 states have managed to increase their minimum wage, but not a single one has increased it enough to cover basic living expenses for a family.
Strengthen worker protections: There is a great need for stronger protections for workers at the state and federal levels, including paid family and medical leave, stronger equal pay laws, pregnancy accommodations and protections for domestic workers. . There are several bills that Congress can pass to establish federal standards for paid leave, including the FAMILY Act, the Healthy Families Act, and the Building an Economy for Families Act. The Pregnant Workers Fairness Act would prohibit discrimination against “qualified female employees affected by pregnancy, childbirth or related medical conditions” and would require reasonable accommodations. The Domestic Workers Bill of Rights extends pay and leave rights to domestic workers while imposing health and safety precautions, including language around fair and fixed hours.
Protect organization rights: The federal government must protect the rights of workers to build power collectively. At the state level, the prevalence of “right to work” laws demonstrates the systematic approach to undermining workers’ power; The federal government has a crucial piece of legislation to pass: the Organization Rights Protection (“PRO”) Act.