The Bulletin

Virginia no longer ranked ‘worst for workers’

By: - September 1, 2021 12:01 am

Tammy Bragg works the grill at the Texas Inn in Lynchburg. (Ned Oliver/Virginia Mercury)

For years, Virginia has been ranked as one of the “best states for business.” And for years, Virginia has also been ranked one of the worst states for workers.

This year, however, the state managed to hold onto the best-for-business claim while shedding the unflattering assessment of its labor policies, rising from dead last to number 23 in Oxfam’s annual ranking of the best states for workers.

“Virginia has jumped pretty impressively, and the reason for that is a whole host of new policies that have been passed last year,” said Kaitlyn Henderson, a researcher at Oxfam, a left-leaning charity focused on fighting poverty around the world.

Oxfam, whose rankings were frequently cited by progressive groups as a counterpoint to lawmakers’ focus on the state’s business friendly reputation, credited an array of policies passed by Democrats since they won control of the General Assembly in 2019, including legislation that created protections for domestic workers, expanded accommodations for pregnant workers, added protections against sexual harassment and increased the minimum wage.

Henderson also noted legislation that opens the door to collective bargaining by local public employees.

She said one of the major gaps preventing Virginia from rising higher in the rankings is a lack of laws guaranteeing paid leave for employees. Lawmakers debated but ultimately did not pass the legislation, which was strongly opposed by business groups.

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Ned Oliver
Ned Oliver

Ned, a Lexington native, has been a fulltime journalist since 2008, beginning at The News-Gazette in Lexington, and including stints at the Berkshire Eagle, in Berkshire County, Mass., and the Times-Dispatch and Style Weekly in Richmond. He is a graduate of Bard College at Simon’s Rock, in Great Barrington, Mass. He was named Virginia's outstanding journalist for 2020 by the Virginia Press Association.