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Working & the Economy

Oxfam: Maryland among best states for workers, but there’s room for improvement

General Assembly
Photo by Angela Breck.

Maryland ranks as one of the best states for workers, but there is still room for improvement, according to an annual ranking from Oxfam, a global organization focused on inequality and poverty.

Maryland ranked 14th overall in the 2023 Best States to Work Index. California ranked first; North Carolina ranked last.

Oxfam’s index takes into account worker-friendly policies in three areas: wages, worker protections and the right to organize.

Maryland has improved its standing in the index in recent years, rising from a 17th place showing in 2020.

Maryland had an overall index score of 63.61 this year, compared to California’s top score of 86.01 and North Carolina’s total score of 7.57.

Oxfam has produced the Best States to Work Index for the last five years.

The organization created the index to focus on “how states are compelled to address the failure of our national institutions to support workers and working families.”

According to Oxfam, states have taken an increasing role in worker protections as efforts in Congress have stalled. For example, the federal minimum wage has been $7.25 an hour for 14 years, while most states — including Maryland — have mandated higher wages.

Even so, according to this year’s index, no state’s minimum wage covers half the basic cost of living for a family of four. The District of Columbia, which has the nation’s highest minimum wage of $17, comes closest. The minimum wage there covers about 38.7% of a family’s expenses.

In Maryland, a minimum wage would cover about 32% of a family’s expenses, according to Oxfam.

This year, Gov. Wes Moore (D) and the General Assembly approved an acceleration of the state’s minimum wage to $15 on Jan. 1, 2024.

Maryland ranked 14th nationally for its wage policies, 13th for worker protections, and 14th for the right to organize.

The Oxfam report also includes a Best States for Working Women Index.

Maryland ranked 18th in the country. Oregon ranked highest and North Carolina ranked lowest.

The Working Women Index considered issues like paid leave policies and other metrics that disproportionately effect women in the workforce, including protections for domestic workers, the right of school teachers to organize, and the minimum wage for tipped workers.


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Oxfam: Maryland among best states for workers, but there’s room for improvement