Editor’s Note: As the year winds down, we’re re-running the 10 most-read pieces of the year in Maryland Matters. Here is #9, which first appeared on Sept. 2 — Labor Day. Look for #8 on the list tomorrow.
Maryland is the 13th best state to work in in America, according to a Labor Day-themed study conducted by the anti-poverty organization Oxfam.
The Free State has dropped one notch since a similar study was conducted a year ago, flipping places with New Jersey, which is now No. 12.
Oxfam looked at three factors in its survey: A state’s wage policies, its right to organize policies, and its worker protection policies.
Maryland was in a 21-way tie for first place in the right to organize category; it was No. 12 in its wage policies (a $10.10-an-hour minimum wage as of July 1, though that is due to increase to $15 an hour over a period of years); and it was No. 13 in worker protection policies.
Maryland was praised for mandating accommodations for pregnant workers in state labor law; for mandating equal pay along gender and race; for prohibiting pay secrecy practices in the workplace; for paid sick leave; and for sexual harassment protections in state law.
The best place to work in the U.S., according to Oxfam? The District of Columbia. Rounding out the top five: California, Washington, Massachusetts and Maine.
Virginia – a state that Maryland officials often believe they’re competing with, especially when it comes to attracting businesses – was ranked the worst state to be a worker. Rounding out the bottom five: Mississippi, Alabama, Georgia and North Carolina.
In Virginia, the minimum wage is $7.25; the state only meets one of Oxfam’s 14 criteria for worker protections – mandating equal pay across gender and race; and union organizing is almost nonexistent.
The Northeast, the Mid-Atlantic and the West Coast generally score higher in the Oxfam survey than the South, the Midwest and the Mountain states.
With the federal government paralyzed by partisan gridlock, states and cities are doing more to boost workers’ pay and protect their rights, Oxfam found.
“Most voters and legislators believe that hard work should pay enough to sustain a worker and their family,” said Minor Sinclair, Oxfam America’s US Domestic Program director. “As the federal minimum wage has been stuck at the poverty wage of $7.25 an hour for over a decade, many states and cities have made the move to increase the minimum within their borders.”