News Release

Labor Day: Best and Worst States for Workers in America


Today, August 31, Oxfam America released its 2023 edition of the Best States to Work report for the fifth year running. The report highlights rapidly growing inequality in the U.S., featuring an index and a map that tracks 26 policies in three areas—wages, worker protections, and rights to organize—to show which states are successfully “filling the gaps left by federal inaction to support workers and their families.”

KAITLYN HENDERSON; to schedule interviews, contact media officer Shelby Bolen at 
    Henderson is a senior research adviser with Oxfam America’s U.S. Domestic Policy Program 

Best States for Workers in 2023:

  1. California
  2. Oregon
  3. District of Columbia
  4. New York
  5. Washington

Worst States for Workers in 2023:

  1.  Alabama
  2.  South Carolina
  3.  Georgia
  4.  Mississippi
  5.  North Carolina

An Oxfam America press release noted that “the top five states in the Index feature some of the strongest minimum wages in the country, provide paid leave, and ensure child labor protections. Three of the five—California, Oregon, and Washington—have heat standards for outdoor workers. In contrast, all five lowest-ranking states have a minimum wage stuck at the federal level of $7.25, none mandate paid leave, and all have so-called ‘right-to-work’ laws on the books.” 

Henderson told the Institute for Public Accuracy: “Our biggest takeaway is seeing how consistent the best and worst states are. While some states are consistently reaching for stronger policies and investing in working families, the bottom 10 are falling stagnant. They’re relying on federal mandates that are also stagnant. 

“We see growing inequality based on geography: where you live decides whether you receive a fair wage, are protected on job, [or have the] right to organize with your colleagues. That’s becoming increasingly worrisome, especially as the realities for workers become more dire… We saw workers who passed away from heat-related injuries in Texas [this summer]. The importance of protecting outdoor workers is more important as heat gets more extreme and climate change worsens. 

“Not everyone has the privilege of living in the states at the top of the index. Mobility is a privilege. Not everyone has the ability or resources to change where they live or move [across] state lines. It’s important not only for states to step into these gaps and proactively pass new policies, but [also for the] federal government to create higher standards regardless of where you live.

“One cause for optimism has been seeing change in the paid leave space. Minnesota’s [new paid leave policy] is up to 20 weeks, putting them in the same realm as European nations. That’s demonstrating a new model of what can happen in the U.S. There’s been a change in the conversation; it’s not just convincing people that paid leave matters, but now it’s about how much paid leave should be. It’s not happening everywhere, but it is becoming more of a national conversation that is filtering into communities. 

“The narrative that gets pulled out [of the report] is that the South is at the bottom, and there’s no change there. But there are some changes that are exciting.” In Florida, for instance, a ballot initiative resulted in a higher state minimum wage, causing the state to move up in Oxfam’s rankings. “On the other side, Virginia jumped up [on the list] because the legislature was working together. It’s not just about who is in the governor’s mansion: it’s a collective shift that can happen.”

Oxfam America recommends the following policies: raising wages at both the state and federal level; strengthening worker protections––including paid family and medical leave, stronger equal pay laws, a heat standard for workers, and protections for domestic workers; protecting and expanding the rights of workers to bargain and build power collectively.