June 19, 2024
No. 2 was Oregon, then New York, Washington, and Massachusetts. Worst places to work? North Carolina.

”Survey says” looks at various rankings and scorecards judging geographic locations while noting these grades are best seen as a mix of artful interpretation and data.

Buzz: As we celebrate Labor Day, let’s note that California was graded as the best state for workers in one new ranking.

Source: My trusty spreadsheet reviewed state workplace scorecards by left-leaning Oxfam, which “tracks how states protect, support and pay workers.”


California was No. 1 in the Oxfam ranking followed by Oregon, New York, Washington and Massachusetts.

Worst places to work? North Carolina, then Mississippi, Georgia, South Carolina and Alabama.

And California rivals? Texas was No. 45, Florida, was No. 28.


Oxfam’s grades came from studying three slices of the workplace.

Pay patterns: California ranked No. 2 among the states after Washington. Then came Maine, Connecticut and Massachusetts. Worst? North Carolina, then Indiana, Alabama, Utah and South Carolina. Rivals? Texas was No. 40, and Florida was No. 28.

Worker protections: California ranked No. 2 after Oregon. Then came New York, Washington, Connecticut and Massachusetts. Worst? Mississippi, then North Carolina, Arkansas, Georgia and Alabama. Rivals? Texas was No. 37 and Florida was No. 28.

The right to organize: California ranked No. 1 followed by New York, Oregon, then Colorado, Delaware and Ohio. Worst? Alabama, Georgia, North Carolina and South Carolina. Rivals? Texas was No. 45 and Florida was No. 25.


“California has some of the nation’s strongest unemployment benefits and minimum wage laws, provides paid leave and has a domestic workers bill of rights,” says Kaitlyn Henderson, Oxfam’s senior research adviser. “It’s also one of only three states that mandate a heat standard for all outdoor workers, which is especially important given the record temperatures we saw this summer. California provides a model for how other states, and the federal government, can support working families.”


Let’s politely say several right-leaning scorecards see California’s business climate far differently.

The Golden State drew an average No. 48 ranking for being boss-friendly in gradings from CEO Magazine, Tax Foundation and Rich States, Poor States.

Tops were Florida in my composite rankings, then North Carolina, Utah, Indiana, Nevada and Texas. Worst was New York and New Jersey, then after California came Minnesota and Vermont.

Bottom line

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If nothing else, Oxfam’s rankings remind us of the grand frictions between workers and bosses. What the government’s role should be in managing that economic tension is certainly up for debate.

Consider the differences between the states Oxfam favors vs. those it does not, based on comparing the ranking’s top 10 states vs. its bottom 10.

First, look at my composite “boss-friendly” grades. Oxfam’s top 10 averaged a low No. 41 ranking vs. the bottom 10’s lofty No. 16.

And it’s no less surprising that Oxfam’s grades like organized labor. An average 14% of workers are unionized in the top 10 states vs. only 5% in the bottom. California is at 16%.

The boss-favoring contingent would note that Oxfam’s favorites had slightly slower job growth over the past 10 years – an average 14% increase for the top 10 vs. 16% in its bottom 10. California’s growth was 20%.

But Labor fans would counter that the pay is better, with worker earnings running $36 an hour this year for Oxfam’s best vs. $30 for the bottom 10. California is at $38.

And the debate gets muddy when the cost of living is factored in. For example, home prices average $529,800 in Oxfam’s top 10 states vs. only $351,400 in the bottom 10. Oh, and California is at $799,000.

Jonathan Lansner is the business columnist for the Southern California News Group. He can be reached at [email protected]