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The Democratic Strategist

Political Strategy for a Permanent Democratic Majority

Political Strategy Notes

From “Just in time for Labor Day, the best and worst states for worker-friendly policies” by Levi Sumagaysay at Marketwatch: “Some states that rank in the middle of Oxfam’s annual index of the best and worst states for workers are making progress….In 2018, the global charity rolled out the index as a way to track the impact of a general lack of federal laws addressing the needs of low-wage workers and working families, it has said. Since then, states in the Northeast and West Coast have consistently ranked at the top of the index, and Southern states have ranked at the bottom….The index covers all 50 states, plus the District of Columbia, and, most recently, Puerto Rico….California took the top spot this year, with a score of 86.01 out of 100, because of its strong unemployment benefits and minimum wages and for being one of the only states with a heat standard for outdoor workers, the report said. The rest of the top five, in order, were Oregon; Washington, D.C.; New York; and Washington….The state that came in last was North Carolina, with a score of 7.57, followed by Mississippi, Georgia, South Carolina and Alabama. All these states have a minimum wage of $7.25 — the federal minimum wage — and right-to-work laws. None of these states mandates paid leave, which the report’s author said benefits women the most, because they are usually the caregivers of their families and communities….Oxfam senior research adviser Kaitlyn Henderson, the author of the 2023 report, said in an interview with MarketWatch that she’s excited by improvements for workers in states in the middle of the rankings, including Minnesota and Michigan….“Minnesota had the most productive legislative session in the country since Franklin Roosevelt’s New Deal,” including the passage of a paid-leave law for both family and sick leave, Henderson said. “They’re weaving a social safety net there that’s really inspiring, and something the federal government should pay attention to.”

Sumagaysay continues, “Another win for workers was Michigan repealing its right-to-work law in March, Henderson said, marking the first time since the 1960s that a state’s right-to-work law has been overturned. Worker advocates oppose right-to-work laws because they don’t require employees to join and financially support unions as a condition of employment, therefore making it harder for employees to form unions and collectively bargain. Twenty-six states currently have these laws, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures….In the report, Henderson also lamented some setbacks in worker protections, including child-labor laws. For example, Arkansas Gov. Sarah Huckabee Sanders, a Republican, signed legislation in March eliminating requirements that the state verify the age of children under 16 and require them to obtain a work certificate before they are hired for a job. Her spokesperson said at the time that the governor believes it’s important to protect children, but the permit requirement created an arbitrary burden for parents….The differences between the states at the top of the index and those at the bottom are “stark,” the report said. The research also found a correlation between the rankings and measures of poverty, food insecurity, infant mortality, median household income and more….Oxfam based its rankings on more than two dozen policies across wages, worker protections and rights to organize in each state. All rankings were based on laws and policies in effect as of July 1….“Our goal is to inspire a race to the top,” Henderson said. “We want to encourage states to do more for working families.”….The Oxfam report included an index for the best states for working women, which mostly corresponded with the highest-ranked states for workers overall. In the index for women, the top five states in order were Oregon, California, New York, Illinois and Washington. The bottom five had North Carolina coming in last, followed by Alabama, Mississippi, Georgia and Texas….The index for women, Henderson said, put a stronger emphasis on tipped wages because women disproportionately make up the tipped workforce. Another key factor in the rankings was the ability for public-school workers to organize in a state, because public-school teachers overwhelmingly are women, she said. Of the five states ranked lowest for women, only Mississippi gives workers the right to organize.” Here are the rankings, which total 52 because of the inclusion of D.C. and P.R. Quibble with the ranking criteria if you will, but Democratic candidates in the bottom-ranking states may be able to gain some traction by focusing on needed labor reforms.:

The Best States to Work Index: How the states rank overall and by policy area

State Rankings, sorted by Rank (ascending)
1 California 86.01 77.52 85.71 100.00
2 Oregon 85.52 70.05 92.86 100.00
3 District of Columbia 81.63 86.37 63.10 100.00
4 New York 78.24 70.60 71.43 100.00
5 Washington 77.83 82.08 71.43 80.00
6 Massachusetts 75.55 73.25 67.86 90.00
7 Connecticut 73.78 75.09 67.86 80.00
8 Colorado 72.13 70.96 60.71 90.00
9 New Jersey 71.73 69.95 60.71 90.00
10 Illinois 69.40 61.00 60.71 95.00
11 Vermont 68.23 70.58 50.00 90.00
12 Maine 66.55 75.74 46.43 80.00
13 Maryland 63.61 62.14 53.57 80.00
14 Rhode Island 62.78 56.94 57.14 80.00
15 Hawaii 62.66 56.64 50.00 90.00
16 New Mexico 60.89 60.56 47.62 80.00
17 Minnesota 60.78 52.98 48.81 90.00
18 Arizona 58.05 72.22 40.48 60.00
19 Puerto Rico 57.46 34.27 67.86 80.00
20 Nevada 54.96 53.01 46.43 70.00
21 Delaware 54.05 44.51 35.71 95.00
22 Ohio 52.80 43.45 33.33 95.00
23 Alaska 47.29 60.93 29.76 50.00
24 Montana 47.03 54.03 29.76 60.00
25 Nebraska 46.07 41.20 34.52 70.00
26 Michigan 46.02 44.22 38.10 60.00
27 South Dakota 45.29 62.18 29.76 40.00
28 Virginia 44.89 35.15 41.67 65.00
29 New Hampshire 43.17 24.58 38.10 80.00
30 Florida 40.86 38.60 29.76 60.00
31 Missouri 39.01 43.35 26.19 50.00
32 Pennsylvania 37.24 17.07 29.76 80.00
33 West Virginia 30.76 38.35 29.76 20.00
34 Wisconsin 29.04 21.57 29.76 40.00
35 Wyoming 28.69 23.82 26.19 40.00
36 Iowa 28.46 26.37 22.62 40.00
37 Indiana 28.02 6.52 29.76 60.00
38 Kentucky 25.85 16.71 26.19 40.00
39 Louisiana 25.76 15.44 34.52 30.00
40 North Dakota 25.38 21.79 26.19 30.00
41 Idaho 24.79 14.05 33.33 30.00
42 Arkansas 24.65 38.72 19.05 10.00
43 Kansas 23.82 11.62 26.19 40.00
44 Oklahoma 23.81 11.60 33.33 30.00
45 Tennessee 20.60 9.83 26.19 30.00
46 Utah 18.62 8.02 29.76 20.00
47 Texas 14.70 13.85 26.19 0.00
48 Alabama 13.10 7.76 21.43 10.00
49 South Carolina 12.65 8.71 26.19 0.00
50 Georgia 11.57 12.25 19.05 0.00
51 Mississippi 11.16 9.15 7.14 20.00
52 North Carolina 7.57 5.39 15.48 0.00

At In These Times, Nick French argues “If Democrats Want to Win Elections, They Should Bring Back the Covid Welfare State: By many measures, Bidenomics is working great—but most Americans are still down on the economy. That’s in large part because the U.S. government let its temporarily generous social safety net unravel.” As French observes, “Real GDP has grown 5% since 2019. Unemployment has fallen to a low of 3.7% after a peak of around 15% in the early days of the Covid-19 pandemic. And inflation, although still higher than pre-pandemic levels, appears to be receding. Real wages are up by 3.5% since Biden took office, with low-wage workers seeing the biggest of those gains between July 2022 and July 2023….Yet many Americans still seem decidedly unhappy with economic conditions today. Several recent polls have found that people in the United States hold negative views of the economy and of how President Biden has been handling it, despite the rosy macroeconomic indicators. For instance, the Michigan Consumer Sentiment Index, which has been measuring consumer confidence levels nationwide since 1978, found that consumers’ feelings about the economy and their personal finances — although up from an all-time low last summer — were still quite negative in August 2023. And a July New York Times poll found that only 20% of Americans would rate economic conditions today as ​excellent” or ​good.” (By contrast, 49% rated the economy ​poor.”).”

French continues, “This disconnect has led many pundits to wonder what’s going on, with some chalking up Americans’ low opinion of ​Bidenomics” to partisanship or ignorance….But Biden still has opportunities to help working people, and there are plenty of actions that he and national Democrats could take now to make people’s lives better and to shore up political support. That will mean making aggressive use of executive power. First and most obvious, the Biden administration should extend the student loan repayment pause, and it should also use all powers at its disposal to actually make good on its promise to cancel student loan debt. This spring, the Congressional Progressive Caucus put forward a list of other items that Biden could enact through executive orders. These include providing generous sick leave and vacation by strengthening Service Contract Act regulations, and expanding access to healthcare premium subsidies…. Biden could also make the overwhelmingly popular move of legalizing marijuana on the federal level. The administration just announced a plan to negotiate lower prices on a number of drugs for seniors under Medicare, but Biden could take even more aggressive action to lower pharmaceutical prices across the board….Democrats should take Americans’ negative views of the economy seriously. This means taking action to provide material benefits to working people while improving their economic security. It also requires offering an exciting, positive alternative political vision to counter the GOP’s grievance-mongering. It will be up to progressives and the Left in and outside of Congress to articulate such a vision — and demand that Biden and the Democratic Party act on it.”

One comment on “Political Strategy Notes

  1. pjcamp on

    “Yet many Americans still seem decidedly unhappy with economic conditions today.”

    3.5% increase over four years means $32 extra per week spread out over four years, for an extra whole entire $8 increase each year.

    Can you see why no one thinks that is anything to write home about?


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