People gathered at a Florida restaurant to ask the McDonald’s corporation to raise workers wages to a $15 minimum wage as well as demanding the right to a union on May 23, 2019 in Fort Lauderdale. The nation wide protest at McDonald’s was held on the day of the company’s shareholder meeting. Joe Raedle/Getty Images
Peach State politicos on both sides of the aisle like to tout Georgia as the best state in the nation to do business. But a new report from Oxfam America says Georgia may be one of the worst states to be a worker.
“If you want to come in here and run a big business, I’m sure it’d be great,” said Hannah Perkins, political and campaign director for the Georgia AFL-CIO. “The statistics show that it would be great. However, what the numbers show and what the people say is that it’s not the number one place to work.”
The report rates Georgia as No. 50 in the nation for best places to work, although because Washington D.C. and Puerto Rico are included, Georgia is not dead last – Mississippi and North Carolina score lower.
Oxfam dinged Georgia for its low minimum wage, $7.25, as low as it is legally possible to pay most hourly workers in the United States. Oxfam says that amounts to just under 19% of the cost of living for a family of four in Georgia.
In response to the study, the Georgia Department of Labor presented statistics showing the median wage in Georgia was $18.43 in 2022, which would be just under 48% of the cost of living for a family of four.
The department’s communications director Shawna Mercer also touted Georgia’s low unemployment rate, 3.2 percent, compared to 3.8 percent nationwide, which she said places Georgia at No. 29 nationwide but No. 3 among the 12 states with populations greater than 8 million.
She said Georgia added more than 88,000 jobs between July 2022 and 2023, making it No. 11 among states for that statistic.
But Oxfam America found those Georgia jobs came with a lot more risk than in other states for the workers who perform them. Georgia lost points for its worker protection policies, coming in at No. 49 in that metric. While the researchers gave the state some credit for instituting some protections like child labor safeguards, Georgia lost points for many policies it does not require, such as paid sick leave, advanced notice of shift scheduling or a heat safety standard for outdoor workers.
“Elected officials and everyone at the top can just read these stats, these are more than just stats for us,” Perkins said. “These are people, this is their lives, and we want to make sure that every worker has the right to a good paying job, a safe job where they are free and can fairly organize if they choose to.”
Georgia certainly did not pick up any points for being friendly to organized labor. Oxfam noted the state has a so-called right-to-work law, does not provide collective bargaining and wage negotiations to teachers, does not protect workers from wage theft retaliation and does not require collective bargaining for public workers.
“When we’re looking at wages, workers in labor unions make 18% more,” Perkins said. “We also ensure that there are better health care benefits and safer places to work and especially given we are a right to work state.”
The researchers found Georgia’s average working Josephine may have a slightly better time than the working Joseph.
Georgia ranked 49 out of 52 for working women in the report, above Mississippi, Alabama and North Carolina.
The auditors gave Georgia some kudos for mandating paid pump breaks for breastfeeding workers and requiring equal pay across gender and race, but they found Georgia is lacking in policies that other states have in place to help women, including protection against sexual harassment in state law, worker protections for domestic workers and paid family leave.
Oxfam found that most of Georgia’s neighbors are not providing a good example. In the overall ranking, Tennessee comes in at No. 45, North Carolina at 52, South Carolina at 49 and Alabama at 48.
Virginia scored the highest in the Southeast at No. 28, with a minimum wage of $12 per hour, 29.5% of the cost of living for a family of four, and Florida was not far behind at No. 30, with a minimum wage of $11, which represents just of 28% of the cost of living.
California scored highest, according to the report. Minimum wage workers there take home $15.50 per hour, representing more than 34.25% of the average cost of living, and workers there enjoy some mandated benefits that Georgians do not.
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