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Virginia no longer ranked ‘worst for workers’

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Tammy Bragg

 Tammy Bragg works the grill at the Texas Inn in Lynchburg. 

For years, Virginia has been ranked as one of the “best states for business.” And for years, Virginia has also been ranked one of the worst states for workers.

This year, however, the state managed to hold onto the best-for-business claim while shedding the unflattering assessment of its labor policies, rising from dead last to number 23 in Oxfam’s annual ranking of the best states for workers.

“Virginia has jumped pretty impressively, and the reason for that is a whole host of new policies that have been passed last year,” said Kaitlyn Henderson, a researcher at Oxfam, a left-leaning charity focused on fighting poverty around the world.

Oxfam, whose rankings were frequently cited by progressive groups as a counterpoint to lawmakers’ focus on the state’s business friendly reputation, credited an array of policies passed by Democrats since they won control of the General Assembly in 2019, including legislation that created protections for domestic workers, expanded accommodations for pregnant workers, added protections against sexual harassment and increased the minimum wage.

Henderson also noted legislation that opens the door to collective bargaining by local public employees.

She said one of the major gaps preventing Virginia from rising higher in the rankings is a lack of laws guaranteeing paid leave for employees. Lawmakers debated but ultimately did not pass the legislation, which was strongly opposed by business groups.

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