BOISE (Idaho Statesman) — Idaho was recently found to be one of the worst states to work in, based on a new annual report from Oxfam.
The report, which ranks every state on wages, worker protections and right to organize, ranked Idaho 41st out of all 50 states, plus Puerto Rico and Washington, D.C. That’s a two-place increase for Idaho, after ranking 43rd in 2022’s report.
The Gem State scored particularly low for wage policies, ranking 41st in the nation. Idaho also ranked 27th in worker protections and 39th in rights to organize.
The Oxfam report calculates the rankings by looking at several key metrics within each category.
For Idaho’s lowest-ranking category, wage policies, Oxfam looks at each state’s minimum wage in relation to the cost of living, the ratio of the tipped minimum wage compared to the regular minimum wage, and whether states allow local municipalities to implement their own minimum wage law.
Idaho scored particularly low because of its minimum wage of $7.25 an hour, which is the joint-lowest in the nation. Idaho is one of 20 states that still adheres to the federal minimum wage set at $7.25, lagging far behind the likes of Massachusetts and Connecticut’s $15 minimum.
That federal minimum has been $7.25 since 2009.
“Too many crucial federal labor standards have not changed in well over a decade, so the best states for workers have consistently passed new legislation that fills those gaps,” stated Kaitlyn Henderson, senior research adviser with Oxfam America’s U.S. Domestic Policy Program, in a news release.
Idaho’s tipped wage is also set at the minimum of $3.35, with a tipped worker considered someone who makes more than $30 in tips within a month.
Idaho’s best rank, worker protections, was still only middle nationwide at 27th place. The study looked at mandates for equal pay and paid or sick leave, as well as protections around sexual harassment and heat safety standards, among other things.
Idaho has an Equal Pay Act, which prevents employers from discriminating based on sex and from paying a lower wage to an employee when compared to an employee of the opposite sex working a similar job but with a higher salary.
But Idaho is also falling short of many of the protections other states have, such as not prohibiting pay secrecy practices, not requiring employers to provide advanced notice of shift scheduling changes and absence of heat safety standards for outdoor workers.
Lastly, Idaho’s lowly rank is tied to the right to organize, 39th, in large part due to Idaho being a Right-to-Work state, often leading to lower union membership and, therefore, fewer protections for workers.
The Oxfam report also found that Idaho is ranked 35th nationwide for female workers. The Gem State was ranked 42nd in the nation for women workers in a separate study conducted earlier in the year by personal finance website WalletHub.
Many problems resulting in Idaho’s low ranking for all workers also apply to women. But women also face additional hurdles in the state, according to Oxfam, such as there being no mandate for pumping breaks for breastfeeding mothers.
“Stagnating wages and occupational segregation in the U.S. disproportionately harm women, specifically women of color, who are often caught in low-wage positions lacking paid family or paid sick leave and are overwhelmingly breadwinners for their families,” Henderson states.
Some federal-level changes are improving the workplace for women, though, such as the Pregnant Workers Fairness Act, which requires employers to provide reasonable accommodations to workers limited by pregnancy or childbirth.
The PUMP Act, which went into effect earlier this year, provides breastfeeding workers with the protected right to receive pumping breaks and be provided with a private place to do so.
While Idaho ranked lowly, several neighboring states have much better working conditions, according to Oxfam. Here are the top 10 places for workers in the United States:
District of Columbia
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