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Vermont’s friendlier for workers than many other states

Vermont dropped a few notches from the previous year, but it still ranked as the 8th best state in 2019 when it comes to pay and legal protections for workers. The ranking was done by Oxfam America in its report: “Best and Worst States to Work in America.”

In 2018, the first year Oxfam published its Best States to Work Index (BSWI), Vermont was ranked 5th. However, Vermont and Maine switched places on the index this year, in large part because Maine now has a higher minimum wage ($11.00 an hour) than Vermont ($10.78).

The Oxfam report looks at three areas that affect the well-being of workers:

  • wages—in relation to the cost of a family;
  • “worker protections,” such as laws to provide paid sick leave or prevent sexual harassment; and
  • labor laws protecting workers’ right to organize.

Vermont was among 21 states with perfect scores in the “right-to-organize” category.

On the wage index, Vermont was ranked 11th—again a drop from last year. The index is based on the minimum wage and living wage in each state. As the report points out, the minimum wage in all states is less than half the living wage—as least as determined by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology Living Wage Calculator). Vermont’s minimum wage, for example, is only 41 percent of the wage MIT says is needed to support a family of four with one adult working full time.

On worker protections, Vermont’s score was mixed. It got maximum points for its law requiring paid sick leave for employees. But its ranking was hurt by the state’s failure to adopt a paid family leave law, which would provide employees with paid time off to care for ill family members or newborn children.

Vermont can give itself a pat on the back for being ahead of most other states in paying and protecting workers. But it is a relative ranking, and clearly there is more Vermont can and should do. For employers in the state to be able to attract workers, Vermont should be the most worker-friendly in the nation. The Legislature passing a $15-an-hour minimum wage bill next session and agreeing on a paid family leave bill would move us closer to that goal.

Posted by Jack Hoffman on September 12, 2019 at 9:47 am

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