Our Working Lives


Originally published in the Summer 2019 edition of the Virginia Defender, issue 59, printed August 23. Reproduced here for accessibility and archival purposes. To find other stories in the Summer 2019 issue or to download the full PDF, see this post. For the full web catalog, see our Full Issues page.

Richmond’s daily newspaper recently touted a report that ranked Virginia as the best state in the country in which to do business. The financial news cable network CNBC had ranked Virginia number one, citing what it called its “world-class workforce, high-performing education system and business-friendly regulations.” 

But how does Virginia rank for workers? 

Dead last, according to a report by the global anti-poverty organization Oxfam titled “The Best States to Work Index: A guide to labor policy in US states.” 

Counting the District of Columbia, which came in first, Virginia’s rank was 51, just below Mississippi, a much maligned state which presumably now is saying “Thank God for Virginia!”

All data was based on laws and policies in effect as of July 1, 2018. 

One big problem is that Virginia has no state minimum wage. Instead, we follow the federal minimum, currently $7.25 an hour, with a mere $2.13 for waitstaff and other tipped workers.

Further, only 4.3 percent of all Virginia workers have a union, the major way most workers can improve their wages and benefits. Only six other states have lower levels of unionization. All are in the South. 

So the next time someone tells you Virginia is the “best state,” be sure to ask “Best for whom?”

‘Cause it ain’t us.

Categories: Our Working Lives

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