The Stand

Washington’s #1 for workers amid pandemic

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Oxfam rankings find that Washington is (still) the best state for workers

 

OLYMPIA (Sept. 4, 2020) — Happy Labor Day, Washington! You are officially the best state in the country for workers during the pandemic.

New rankings released Wednesday by Oxfam America compare the wages, workplace protections and workers’ rights in all 50 states, D.C. and Puerto Rico during the COVID-19 pandemic, and Washington ranks No. 1.

“COVID-19 is not only a health crisis, but an economic one,” Inslee said. “This has dramatically impacted everyone in our state, businesses and workers alike, particularly those most vulnerable. This crisis has shined a light on the importance of strong worker protections and the far-reaching impacts of income inequality. We must continue to do whatever we can to ensure that workers and families have what they need. In Washington we believe you can recover a strong economy, without sacrificing the health and safety of workers.”

It’s worth pointing out that Washington also ranked by Oxfam as the best state for workers in 2018, before COVID-19. That’s because the state was already a national leader in workers’ rights.

“It should come as no surprise that a strong union state like Washington has superior worker protections,” said Larry Brown, President of the Washington State Labor Council, AFL-CIO. “Thanks to decades of advocacy by our state’s labor movement and strong progressive leadership in state government, Washington leads the way on minimum wage, paid sick leave, work safety standards, paid family and medical leave, and strong safety nets for injured workers and the unemployed. It’s proof that strong unions benefit all workers, even if they aren’t members — yet.”

Washington is the third most unionized state in the nation. Another recent study declared it has the strongest unions in the country.

Meanwhile, anti-labor states with the fewest union members fared poorly in the Oxfam rankings. Of the 20 worst states to work during COVID-19 — those with the fewest worker protections, least accessible health care, and worst support for the unemployed — 18 are “right-to-work” states that actively discourage unions. None of the top 10 best states to work were “right-to-work” states.

Oxfam, an organization that aims to end poverty, produces its annual Best States to Work index to examine how states are helping working families cope — and survive:

● Worker Protections: Are states taking proactive measures to protect workers and their communities amidst a pandemic that involves a deadly airborne virus?
● Health Care: How are states protecting the health of their residents during a pandemic, especially given the limitations of employment-linked health insurance?
● Unemployment Supports: How are states accommodating the millions of people who are suddenly, through no fault of their own, unemployed and without a steady income?

Each state/territory earns a score from 0–100 for each area, which are totaled to create the score. No state or territory scores above 80 overall. Washington scored 76.41, with its highest score in worker protections.

The report calls out Washington’s effort to protect workers with mandatory face coverings and personal protective equipment, as well as a moratorium on evictions during the pandemic, relief from utility shutoffs, increased food assistance and a fund for undocumented workers. Oxfam also gave Washington high marks for its paid family and medical leave program, which began paying benefits earlier this year and provides some of the most progressive benefits in the nation.

“The pandemic has revealed the harsh challenges low-wage working families face in the US,” said Minor Sinclair, Oxfam America Director of U.S. Domestic Program. “Washington leads the way in providing most families a cushion from the fall by offering unemployment support, worker and healthcare protections. But the federal government and many other states in the country have failed to provide any support for working families who risk falling into poverty, hunger, and homelessness.”

“I recognize this work is not done. We continue to hear every day of challenges faced by workers as more return to their work places and job sites. I remain committed to doing this work until the crisis is over, and beyond,” Inslee said.

Read the full Oxfam report here: Best States to Work During COVID-19.

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