Best and Worst States to Work in America 2022

Graphic: Emily Eberly/Oxfam America

Oxfam’s rankings are out: How well does your state support workers, working families, and working women?

Note: Looking for our 2023 rankings? Find them here.

For five years running, Oxfam has produced the Best States to Work Index (BSWI) to track how states protect, support, and pay workers. At a time when too many Americans must decide between paying for gas to get to work and buying food, it is more important than ever to shine a light on which states are stepping up for working families.

In advance of Labor Day, Oxfam is releasing two indexes—Best and Worst States to Work in America and Best and Worst States for Working Women—that highlight the widening gulf of inequality in the US. Both focus on three areas: fair wages, workplace protections that keep our essential workforce safe, and rights to organize that ensure workers are able to form and join unions.

What are the best states to work in?

The three best states to work—Oregon, California, and Washington—have strong minimum wages, paid leave, and heat protections for outdoor workers.


For a second straight year, Oregon is the best state to work in the nation. As heat waves ripped through the country this summer, Oregon is one of three states to pass new laws mandating heat protections for outdoor workers at a time when no federal protections exist. It leads the US with policies aimed to improve conditions in the workplace and ensure the right to organize. It also offers strong unemployment benefits.


California is tied with Oregon, New York, and DC for having the best support for worker organizing at a time when workers are embracing their collective power. According to the National Labor Relations Board, petitions for union representation increased more than 50 percent over the last year.


Washington moved from seventh in last year’s index to third in this year’s, benefiting from an $.80 cent increase in its minimum wage to $14.49 as well as better worker protections including heat protections for outdoor workers.

Oxfam's Best States to Work Index is meant to inspire a race to the top for all states to better protect, support, and pay workers, including restaurant workers that are fighting for higher wages and paid leave. Photo: Brian Lundquist/Unsplash.

What are the worst states to work in?

The three worst states to work—North Carolina, Mississippi, and Georgia—all have a minimum wage stuck at the federal level of $7.25, none mandates paid leave, and all have so-called “right to work” laws that have been shown to negatively affect union membership rates.

North Carolina

For a third straight year, North Carolina is the worst state to work in the nation. The state provides no support for workers’ rights to organize and has very few worker protection policies.


Despite moving up one position from last year’s index, Mississippi is the only state in the country to score 0.00 in the worker protection category—policies that support workers’ and working families’ real-life needs inside and outside the workplace.


Along with its bottom three counterparts, Georgia does not include any protections against sexual harassment in the workplace.

Mississippi and Georgia are also unsurprisingly some of the worst states for working women. As both states move to severely restrict women’s access to abortion since the overturning of Roe v. Wade, their labor policies cruelly make it harder for working women to provide for babies they are now forced to carry to term.

While Oxfam celebrates where states are stepping up for workers' rights, federal action is desperately needed to lift the standard for every worker in the US so we can build a more equal future for everyone—especially in states where inaction persists.

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