If you’ve ever had a job as a waiter or a bartender in North Carolina, you already know that an hour of your work is worth a mere $2.13—not even enough to buy a cup of coffee.
The minimum wage for workers who receive tips (yep, $2.13 an hour) is just one of the appalling statewide policies that remains unchanged since last year, when North Carolina was ranked dead last in a list of best and worst places to work in the nation.
This week, North Carolina once again came 52nd on that list, compiled by Oxfam, an international nonprofit that fights poverty.
The organization ranks states based on things like wages, worker protections, and paid leave. North Carolina, which not only has one of the lowest minimum wages in America ($7.25 an hour), but also prohibits local governments from raising that minimum wage in their own city or town, easily snagged last place.
In addition to the abysmal minimum wage—which amounts to about 20 percent of the wage it would take to support a family of four—North Carolina has laws on the books that actively suppress workers’ ability to negotiate for higher pay. Our right-to-work law suppresses unions and unsurprisingly, the state does not provide comparable collective bargaining tools for workers.
Protections for workers are also practically nonexistent. North Carolina does not provide accommodations for pregnant or breastfeeding workers, paid family leave, or paid sick leave. There’s not even a statewide law protecting workers from sexual harassment.
“This year’s index comes at a moment when workers face daunting challenges at work and in their communities,” states an Oxfam news release. “(H)istoric levels of inflation eroding actual wages, an ongoing pandemic, landmark Supreme Court decisions around fundamental rights, suppression of organizing efforts, and worries about the economy and potential unemployment.”
That’s not to mention the extreme temperatures construction workers and other outdoor laborers are facing, again with no legal protections. But even as workers across the state and nation are resigning in hopes of finding better working conditions (particularly teachers and bus drivers), North Carolina lawmakers have taken no action.
Maybe it’s time for a reverse exodus? Many of the northerners relocating to Raleigh are leaving states with much better working conditions, including New York, which ranks number five on Oxfam’s list. Oregon, another common home for people relocating southeast, is again the number one state in the nation to work. Unfortunately, even workers there are dealing with rising home prices.
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