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Report: VA Moves Up from 'Worst Place to Work,' Thanks to Policy Changes


Tuesday, September 7, 2021   

RICHMOND, Va. - Virginia's made big strides over the last two years to improve employee protections, and a new report shows it moved from dead last to the top 25 of states in which to work in the U.S.

Oxfam America's report, titled "2021 Best and Worst States to Work in America," looks at how states treat workers and working families through wages, worker protection policies, and the right to organize.

Normally, states have stayed pretty consistent in their ranking, but Virginia is the exception to that rule.

Kaitlyn Henderson, senior research advisor at Oxfam America, said Virginia's boost is a result of important policy changes in favor of workers that have been made recently on a state level.

"Some of them are super straightforward like there is now a higher minimum wage in Virginia than there was last year," said Henderson. "And Virginia passed a higher minimum wage that's on a calendar to continue increasing until it hits 15. There's still again room for growth, but that makes a really big difference for families that rely on a minimum wage income."

It's currently $9.50 an hour, up from $7.25 last year.

Other legislation passed includes an amendment to Virginia's Human Rights Act that prohibits discrimination against people with disabilities. That went into effect last month.

Many of the sweeping policy changes can be connected to Democrats taking control of the General Assembly in 2020, but Henderson said it's also thanks to organizers in the state who've been fighting for workers' rights.

Among the legislation that gives Virginians more power is the extension of collective bargaining rights to certain public sector workers and the expansion of domestic workers' protections. Henderson said it hasn't come easily.

"A lot of the policies that have finally been passed in 2021 are the result of years and years of workers organizing and people on the ground pushing for these policies to pass," said Henderson. "So it is the result of the legislature but it's largely the result of organizing and this is the power of when people come together."

Other policies Virginia has passed include a new pay transparency law, which protects employees from retaliatory actions when they ask for information about other workers' wages.

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