The findings of a new study might make for some unhappy Texas workers.
Oxfam America, a nonprofit that aims to end poverty and injustice, ranks Texas 48th on its new Best States to Work Index, down from No. 47 last year. Out of a potential index score of 100, Texas ekes out a paltry score of 11.56 for 2022. The state fares poorly in all three of the index categories: organizing rights (0), wages (12.24), and worker protections (19.05).
By contrast, top-ranked Oregon earns an overall score of 86.72, maintaining the No. 1 spot it held in 2021. With a score of 4.55, North Carolina sits at the bottom of this year’s index, just as it did on last year’s index.
Texas also lands at No. 48 on Oxfam’s separate index of the best states for working women. Not surprisingly, Oregon sits atop this index, and North Carolina languishes at the bottom.
“Texas’ position is a reflection of inaction at the state level when it comes to policies in support of workers and working families,” Oxfam researcher Kaitlyn Henderson tells CultureMap.
“In an index especially focused on how states treat vulnerable workers, Texas stands out as a state that has not moved the minimum wage above the federal standard of $7.25 — a poverty wage, especially in this moment of generational inflation — and still has a sub-minimum tipped wage of $2.13.”
Texas also lacks most of the worker protection policies tracked by the index, such as paid leave, Henderson says. Furthermore, the state doesn’t protect the right to organize for public-sector or private-sector workers.
“Given the stark economic reality of today, and the fact that many low-wage workers were only recently heralded as heroes during the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, the lack of support and protection for all workers and working families is striking,” Henderson says of Texas.
Oxfam says this year’s findings point to the need for stepped-up federal action, including a hike of the federal minimum wage from the current $7.25 an hour.
“The federal government has failed America’s workers, refusing for decades to pass updates in labor laws — as a result, it has fallen to the states to improve wages, working conditions, and rights,” Henderson says in a news release. “Fortunately, there is important work happening at the state level that deserves celebration, and it’s vital to recognize that these policies are the direct result of workers who have organized and demanded change for years.”