Commentary, News

Report: North Carolina one of the worst states for workers

The global anti-poverty organization known as OxFam is out with a new report on the best and worst American states in which to work and, sadly but not surprisingly, North Carolina comes in near the bottom.

The OxFam researchers looked at dozens of data points impacting compensation and working conditions and ranked states on such things as wage policies like the state’s minimum wage, worker protection policies like paid sick day rules and protections from sexual harassment, and laws governing the right of workers to organize.

The criteria spelled out in the report were:

Wage policies
Do workers earn a living wage that is sufficient to provide for them and their families? This dimension includes two areas:

  • The ratio of the actual state minimum wage in relation to the “living wage” for a family of four with one wage earner. The living wage figure is from the MIT Living Wage Calculator 1.
  • Whether or not the state allows localities to implement their own minimum wage laws 2.

Worker protection policies
This dimension considers the quality of life for workers, especially women and parents. The policies include:

  • Protections for women who are pregnant and breastfeeding.
  • Mandates for equal pay, pay secrecy, and no salary history.
  • Leave for non-FMLA workers because of less time on the job; leave longer than federal FMLA.
  • Mandate for paid sick leave.
  • Protections around flexible scheduling, reporting pay, split shift pay, advance notice.
  • Protections around sexual harassment.

Right to organize policies
Do workers have the right to organize and sustain a trade union?

  • Does the state have a so-called “Right to Work” law (which suppresses union activity)?
  • Do public employees (teachers, police, firefighters) have rights to collective bargaining and wage negotiation
  • Are project labor agreements for government contracts available?

As the report explains, the federal government has historically taken the most significant action to pass laws that protect workers, but this has changed in recent years as corporations have consolidated their power in Washington.

This, the report says, leaves the job to states, but unfortunately, while some have assumed the mantle, North Carolina has not. OxFam ranks our state 47th in the country. Only Georgia, Alabama, Mississippi and Virginia fared worse.

The bottom line:  The report is a distressing commentary on how North Carolina treats its people and should be a call to action for state leaders to do much better.

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