The Pulse

New study: NC once again the worst state in America for workers (chart)

By: - September 7, 2021 8:35 am

It comes as no particular surprise (and likely as music to the ears of the far right, market fundamentalists who dominate North Carolina policy making), but caring and thinking people will be rightfully aghast at the latest assessment of the “Best and Worst States to Work in America 2021” from analysts at the global anti-poverty nonprofit, OxFam. The new rankings (see below) once again place North Carolina dead last based on three measurements: wages, worker protections and the right to organize.

This is from the introduction:

For the past four years, Oxfam America has produced a Best States to Work Index (BSWI), which tracks how states treat, protect, and pay workers. Formulated in 2017 and published for the first time in 2018, this index was born out of a vacuum left by inadequate federal agencies, static federal policies on wages, and the continued movement toward privatization. The BSWI focuses on how states are forced to address the failure of our national institutions to protect workers. The 2021 BSWI includes all 50 states plus the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico, ranking the states on a scale of best (No. 1) to worst (No. 52). It’s important to note that while this report uses the term “state” to refer to all localities, it is also used to refer to the District of Columbia (a federal district) and Puerto Rico (an unincorporated territory).

The ratings rank states on a scale from 0-100. Oregon scored the best with a ranking of 85.68. Here’s what the report had to say about the Tar Heel state (which fared even worse than last year):

North Carolina repeated its 2020 ranking of last place. North Carolina provides no support for workers’ rights to organize, does not exceed the federal minimum wage, and has very few worker protection policies. (Even Mississippi, ranked last in the 2019 BSWI, offers some mandates around rights to organize.) Not only did North Carolina once again rank 52 in our index, due to this year’s inclusion of the ratio of unemployment payments compared to cost of living, North Carolina’s composite score dropped below last year’s (from 6.55 to 6.19).

The report also ranked North Carolina 52nd out of 52 when it comes to “best states for working women.” Again, Oregon topped the list with a score of 95.36, while North Carolina came in with a woeful 3.60. Even Alabama and Mississippi did appreciably better. Again, this is from the report:

On the bottom end of the Best States for Working Women index, much like the overall index, are the southern states, where worker protection policies geared toward women in the workplace hardly exist, tipped wages are at the federal minimum of $2.13, and rights to organize are denied to workers, including public school teachers.

Importantly, the only state in the United States without an equal pay mandate is Mississippi, and all states that do not include any protections against sexual harassment in the workplace are in the South: Alabama, Georgia, Mississippi, and North Carolina. The relative consistency in rankings across our BSWI and the Best States for Working Women index underlines the fact that states that value women in the workplace value workers.

Click here to explore the report.

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Rob Schofield
Rob Schofield

Editor Rob Schofield oversees day-to-day newsroom operations, authors regular commentaries, and hosts a weekly radio show/podcast.