By Chris Saxman
Some things just have to be challenged at the outset before they gain traction and become an untrue reality.
Gaining traction among too many candidates for the General Assembly is a ranking was released by a British organization, Oxfam, that graded American states and the District of Columbia on best states for workers. This is the second year of their ranking. Here’s what their release stated:
In 2018, workers are not sharing in the bounty of our thriving economy—and the federal government is not going to make changes that matter. However, some states are taking steps to keep working families out of poverty, and to give them a decent chance. How does your state rank?
According to Oxfam’s rankings, Virginia ranks LAST out of the 50 states and DC. Being ranked #51 out of 51, we believe, is worth challenging. How are these rankings compiled? And what is Oxfam anyway? (click the above link)
Oxfam predicates their ranking on how well working families do in states relative to being able to get out of poverty. This relates to their organization’s mission which states:
Oxfam is a global organization working to end the injustice of poverty. We help people build better futures for themselves, hold the powerful accountable, and save lives in disasters.
Got it? Oxfam wants “to end the injustice of poverty”; however, they didn’t rank states on their rates of actual poverty or measure how well people move out of it. Bet you want to know where Virginia ranks on poverty, don’t you? No Googling!
Oxfam ranked the states and DC based on just three areas of policy that Oxfam thinks will help working families get out of poverty. But what if families are not actually in poverty?
….shhhh…. Not yet.
Those three policies areas according the global organization that is working to end the injustice of poverty are as follows (This is copied directly from their ranking):
We evaluated states on three dimensions:
• Wage policies: Has the state raised the minimum wage to help workers earn a living wage? Do localities have capacity to raise the minimum wage to accommodate higher costs of living?
• Worker protection policies: Does the state provide protections at work for situations such as paid sick leave, pregnancy, and equal pay?
• Right to organize policies: Does the state guarantee that workers have the right to organize and sustain a trade union?
One policy + two policy + three policy divided by 3 = your state’s ranking in Oxfam’s
THE BEST AND WORST STATES TO WORK IN AMERICA.
Break down those three policies areas and what do they suggest? That if Virginia ends the Dillon Rule so localities can be pressured to implement local minimum wage increases and repeals Right to Work magically the Commonwealth would “keep working families out of poverty.”
A quick Wikipedia search found that Virginia is ranked #11 in the rate of poverty. Well, wait a second…Virginia was just ranked the worst state in America for workers. Maybe we should check other rankings that relate to workers.
How about the unemployment rate? You know – do workers have actual jobs? According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, Virginia is tied for #7. Okay.
Google, how about median family income? World Population Review says Virginia is #9. Wow. So combining Median Family Income and the Unemployment Rate rankings, Virginia is #8?
Nope. With those two rankings, compared to all the other states and DC, Virginia is actually #4. But Oxfam seems to imply Virginia is the WORST STATE TO WORK IN. Something doesn’t square up.
Well, how affordable is Virginia? U.S News and World Report says Virginia is #31 in affordability. This seems like an area on which the Commonwealth should focus some attention. Housing is kind of expensive. That means demand is ahead of supply. Time to build more housing units.
Are workers getting their money’s worth in K-12 schools? Wallet Hub by way of Forbes (thanks again Google) ranked Virginia public schools #6 in the nation. (Quality – #7 and Safety – #2) Hmmm….
Higher ed? Virginia is #1. (No, that does not include recent team sport national championships – which would be great considering UVA’s two recent nattys. But we might get deductions considering Virginia Tech doesn’t have any ever.) So, let’s just keep Virginia’s higher education system at #1. Wahoowa.
Well, how safe is Virginia? According to World Atlas, which used FBI crime statistics, Virginia is #13 for safety. Other recent surveys had the Commonwealth at #4. We used #13 since it was the most recent one.
Health care? How healthy are Virginians and how good is our health care system compared to the other states? America’s Health Rankings has Virginia at #20.
Transportation? #19 overall but – yikes 43(!) – for commuting workers. (Note to lawmakers and candidates – need more work on commute times). Road quality is #9.
How green is Virginia’s environment for its workers? Forbes says #23. Not great but…not last. Fine. We’re not as bad as Oxfam tries to makes us out to be.
BUT ARE WORKERS IN VIRGINIA HAPPY?
Ask them yourself. If you want to know where Virginia ranks in the Happiest State Rankings, Wallet Hub says we are #15. (They say our Work Environment is #25 by the way)
We totaled up the TEN aforementioned rankings, did not include debunked ones like Oxfam’s, and did the math thing relative to the other states and DC.
Virginia Ranks #6 for Best State for Workers who want a job, good pay, to send kids to school, to ride good roads, to lock the doors at night, then send their kids to college, need health care, pay the tab, breathe the air, and at the end of the day ask – “Am I happy?”
Virginia is most certainly NOT the worst state for Workers.
Sorry, Oxfam. Try again. Your rankings are just not credible if you only consider three areas of public policy. And we REALLY like the Dillon Rule and Right To Work.
Gallup Poll on national popularity of Right to Work – Hint over 70%
Virginia is the #6 Best State for Workers
Thanks to Oxfam, now Virginia can focus on going for the gold. Being #6 might be good for most states, but this is the Commonwealth of Virginia and we have standards.
Being #1 is the standard.
Repealing Right to Work and ending the Dillon Rule will not help us get there anytime soon.
Chris Saxman is a former member of the Virginia House of Delegates and current Executive Director of Virginia FREE, providing objective, non-partisan political information to Virginia businesses.