Oxfam: Michigan falls to 29th best state for workers in 2021

Newest ranking shows big decline from last year

By: - September 8, 2021 3:50 am
Employees works at Ford Motor Plant

Ford Motor Company is temporarily closing some of its plants to help stop spread of the new coronavirus. | Bill Pugliano/Getty Images

The Boston-based nonprofit Oxfam has ranked Michigan as the 29th best state for workers overall in its most recent annual report on working policies and conditions.

Michigan’s 2021 ranking is a far cry from what it was in 2020 — then 13th in the country overall, nearly cracking the top 10 best states to work in during the pandemic. Now, Michigan isn’t even in the top half of states.

For the first time, Oxfam also released a second index detailing the best and worst states for working women. Michigan scores even worse in that lineup, coming in 31st.

Both indexes focus on wage policies, worker protections and rights to organize, and includes all 50 states, plus the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico.

David Hecker, Vice President of the American Federation of Teachers (AFT) Michigan, said that Michigan’s new rankings are “disgraceful, but not surprising.

“We lived through eight years of former Gov. [Rick] Snyder’s administration and its regular attacks on working people. These rankings highlight the imperative need to organize politically to elect allies of working people, women, public education, the environment, health care and many issues,” Hecker said.

Breaking down the main index, Michigan ranks 24th in the country for overall wage policies — compared to 12th last year. The state also ranks 34th in worker protections and 32nd in rights to organize.

Oregon, New York, Massachusetts and California lead the nation as the top four best states for workers overall.

The four worst states to work — which, Oxfam notes, are also the worst for working women — are North Carolina, Georgia, Mississippi and Alabama. None of the states provide any workplace sexual harassment protections, amongst other deficiencies.

The report also notes that only nine states mandate both paid and sick leave, even during a pandemic.

Best and worst states to work in America 2021 | Oxfam graphic

The minimum wage in Michigan is $9.65, which is 32.5% of the living wage for the average family of four. Although Michigan does extend its minimum wage policy to cover farmworkers, municipalities cannot set the minimum wage above the state standard, lowering the state’s score in the wage policies category.

As for worker protection criteria, Michigan fails to fully meet criteria in 11 of the 14 categories listed. Although it does mandate equal pay across gender and race, prohibits pay secrecy practices in the workplace and provides some sort of sexual harassment protection in state law, other protections like those to accomodate pregnant and breastfeeding workers are not available.

Michigan also does not provide some form of paid family leave or paid sick leave.

The state meets two of the five criteria for right-to-organize policies, giving it a ranking of 32nd best overall in that category. Michigan does provide collective bargaining and wage negotiations to teachers, and does require collective bargaining for public workers. But it also has a Right to Work law, signed by GOP former Gov. Rick Snyder in 2012, which took aim at unions.

Overall scores are based 40% on state policies on wages, 35% on worker protections and 25% on rights to organize.

Best and worst states for working women 2021 | Oxfam graphic

For working women, Oxfam’s newest annual index reports that Michigan scores 31st in the nation — even worse than the overall working conditions for all genders.

The only criteria for right-to-organize policies is whether a state provides collective bargaining and wage negotiations to teachers, which Michigan does, so the state received a #1 ranking for that category.

However, Michigan scores 27th in wage policies for women, as the tipped minimum wage is currently $2.67 which makes up 8.8% of the living wage for a family of three.

Worker protection policies for women are Michigan’s worst in any category for both indexes. At 35th in the nation, Michigan only checks off three of the 11 categories and fails to offer the rest of the protections.

Although it does mandate the three worker protections detailed in the main index, Michigan does not provide accommodations for pregnant workers, does not offer protections for workplace breastfeeding, does not restrict access to salary history to reduce gender and racial bias, does not provide paid sick leave or family leave, does not extend worker protections to domestic workers and more.


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Laina G. Stebbins
Laina G. Stebbins

Laina G. Stebbins covers the environment, Native issues and criminal justice for the Advance. A lifelong Michigander, she is a graduate of Michigan State University’s School of Journalism, where she served as Founding Editor of The Tab Michigan State and as a reporter for the Capital News Service. When Laina is not writing or spending time with her cats, she loves art and design, listening to music, playing piano, enjoying good food and being out in nature (especially Up North).