CFED Assets & Opportunity Scorecard
Job Quality Standards
An estimated 30 million Americans hold low-wage jobs. Workers in these jobs struggle to meet their basic day-to-day expenses, let alone save for the future. While wages are one component of job quality, benefits – such as health insurance, retirement contributions and protected time off – are another. Millions of workers are faced with choosing between keeping their income and taking time off work to care for themselves or a loved one because they lack the basic leave benefits necessary to protect their earnings and jobs. Federal policy provides a floor for wage and benefit standards; however, state policy can appropriately expand on and strengthen federal laws. For example, states can ensure that the minimum wage keeps pace with the rising cost of living and accounts for geographic variation. They can also ensure that no class of workers is excluded from wage protections and that laws are properly enforced. Likewise, states can strengthen leave policies by establishing paid sick, family and medical leave for workers.
CFED evaluated the strength of each state’s minimum wage and family, medical and sick leave policies against the four criteria described in the Elements of a Strong Policy tab. The table below shows which criteria each state met.
CFED uses the following icons to denote the strength of state policies:
Strength of State Policies: Job Quality Standards
|State||Is the state minimum wage at least $8.00?||Is the state minimum wage anually adjusted for cost of living increases?||Does the state extend full minimum wage protection to agriculture, domestic, home care and tipped workers? 2||Does the state require employers to offer paid medical, family or sick leave? 3, 4||Does the state expand FMLA to cover more workers? 5, 6, 7||Rating|
|Alabama||No state minimum wage||—||No||No||No|
|California||Yes ($8.00)||No||Yes||Yes (Family, Medical)||Yes|
|Connecticut||Yes ($8.25)||No||No||Yes (Sick)||Yes|
|District of Columbia||Yes ($8.25)||No||No 8||Yes (Sick)||Yes|
|Hawaii||No ($7.25)||No||No||Yes (Medical)||Yes|
|Louisiana||No state minimum wage||—||No||No||No|
|Mississippi||No state minimum wage||—||No||No||No|
|Nevada||Yes ($8.25) 9||Yes||No||No||No|
|New Hampshire||No ($7.25)||No||No||No||No|
|New Jersey||No ($7.25)||No||No||Yes (Family, Medical)||Yes|
|New Mexico||No ($7.50)||No||No||No||No|
|New York||No ($7.25)||No||No||Yes (Medical)||No|
|North Carolina||No ($7.25)||No||No||No||No|
|North Dakota||No ($7.25)||No||No||No||No|
|Rhode Island||No ($7.75)||No||No||Yes (Medical)||Yes|
|South Carolina||No state minimum wage||—||No||No||No|
|South Dakota||No ($7.25)||No||No||No||No|
|Tennessee||No state minimum wage||—||No||No||No|
|Washington||Yes ($9.04)||Yes||No||Yes (Family) 10||Yes|
|West Virginia||No ($7.25)||No||No||No||No|
1. United States Department of Labor, Wage and Hour Division, "Minimum Wage Laws in the States, January 1, 2012." Last modified January 1, 2012. Accessed July 27, 2012. www.dol.gov/whd/minwage/america.htm. Note: "-" indicates that the data is not applicable because the state does not currently have a minimum wage.
2. " Winning Wage Justice: An Advocate's Guide to State and City Policies to Fight Wage Theft. New York: National Employment Law Project, 2011. http://www.nelp.org/page/-/Justice/2011/WinningWageJustice2011.pdf?nocdn=1. Tipped worker minimum wage data provided separately by NELP. Additional 2012 updates provided by Progressive States Network.
3. Medical leave includes paid leave for personal injury (including pregnancy), typically provided by a state Temporary Disability Insurance program.
4. National Partnership for Women and Families, "Work & Family State Policy Database." Accessed July 27, 2012. http://www.nationalpartnership.org/site/PageServer?pagename=issues_work_database.
6. National Partnership for Women and Families, "Advancing a Family Friendly America: How Family Friendly is Your State." Accessed July 27, 2012. www.nationalpartnership.org/site/PageServer?pagename=issues_work_ffa_map.
7. States that have expanded FMLA coverage for parental leave only were not awarded credit.
8. Minimum Wages, District of Columbia Official Code 2001 Edition Division V. Local Business Affairs Title 32 Labor Chapter 10
9. Nevada's minimum wage rate is $7.25 for workers with employer-provided health insurance
10. Washington's Paid Parental Leave Law passed in 2007 but has yet to be implemented because of funding issues. The state pregnancy disability law permits pregnant women workers to take leave from work for the entire period of "disability."
WHAT STATES CAN DO
While federal policy provides a floor for wage and benefit standards, state policy can appropriately expand on and strengthen federal laws. For example, states can ensure that the minimum wage keeps pace with the rising cost of living and accounts for geographic variation. States can also ensure that no class of workers is excluded from protections and that laws are properly enforced.1 Likewise, states can strengthen leave policies by establishing paid sick, family and medical leave for workers. While paid leave is the strongest policy action, states can take incremental steps to improve leave policies by expanding Federal Medical Leave Act (FMLA) coverage to workers not included under the federal law.
WHAT STATES HAVE DONE
A growing number of states have recognized the limitations of the federal minimum wage and enacted stronger state policies. Nine states have enacted minimum wages of at least $8.00. To ensure that the actual value of the minimum wage does not erode with the rising cost of living, 10 states – including four states that also set their wage at $8.00 or higher – have indexed their minimum wage to an annual cost of living adjustment.
Many states have extended minimum wage protections to workers in occupations left vulnerable by the federal law. Fifteen states have eliminated minimum wage exemptions for agricultural workers; four have eliminated exemptions for all domestic workers; 22 have eliminated exemptions for homecare workers; and seven have eliminated exemptions for tipped workers. California is the only state to have eliminated exclusions for all four groups of workers.
Eight states have adopted some form of paid leave legislation. In 2008, the District of Columbia passed paid sick leave legislation; with Connecticut following in 2011 (see Case Studies tab). Eleven states have extended the federal FMLA to cover more workers.
1 Despite the official removal of exclusions from state labor laws, loopholes often exist that allow employers to pay specific subsets of employees below the minimum wage. States should be vigilant in prohibiting or closing these loopholes.
ELEMENTS OF A STRONG POLICY
Based on the expertise of the National Employment Law Project and the National Partnership for Women and Families, CFED considers a state to have taken meaningful steps to strengthen job quality standards for working families if it meets the following criteria:
1. Does the state have a strong minimum wage policy? States should enact minimum wage rates of at least $8.00 per hour or automatically annually adjust the rate for cost of living.
2. Does the state’s minimum wage law guarantee full coverage for all workers? Contrary to popular conception, not all workers are guaranteed the federal or state minimum wage. Many labor laws exempt certain groups of workers from minimum wage coverage. States should extend minimum wage protections to agricultural, domestic, home care and tipped workers.
3. Does the state require employers to offer paid medical, family or sick leave? States should adopt policies – including paid medical leave, family leave and sick leave – that enable workers to address family or health issues without jeopardizing their earnings or job security.
4. Does the state expand the federal Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) to cover more workers? States can take significant incremental steps toward ensuring more workers have the right to unpaid family and medical leave by extending FMLA coverage to more workers and families. States should:
- Expand coverage to include smaller employers. FMLA only applies to employers with 50 or more workers; states should lower this threshold.
- Expand coverage to employees who have less tenure or have worked fewer than the 1,250 annual hours, required by FMLA.
- Expand the definition of “family” beyond care for a child, spouse or parent. For example, states should include care for domestic partners, siblings, grandparents or grandchildren.
To see how each state’s policy stacks up against these criteria, see the State Data tab above.
MAKING THE CASE
Guidelines for a Successful Campaign1
1. Convey a clear and consistent message. Advocates for job quality standards should focus communication with the media and policymakers on core messages highlighting the strengths of favored policies. Successful minimum wage campaigns in Missouri repeatedly promoted the message that cost of living indexing simply kept the minimum wage from eroding. Effective paid leave advocates continually reinforce the link between paid sick days and preserving public health.
2. Tout public support and polling. Although public attitudes on minimum wage and job leave policy vary along geographical and political lines, polling has consistently shown that voters are generally supportive of improving low-wage job quality. Raising the minimum wage is an appealingly, intuitive and easily comprehensible policy. When the question was put to Americans in a national poll in 2006 conducted by CNN, 86% supported increasing the minimum wage. More recently, in a fall 2010 nationwide poll, 67% supported raising the minimum wage to the critical threshold of $10 an hour,2 with support proving resilient in recessionary climates. Three-quarters of the public support a law guaranteeing all workers a minimum number of paid sick days.3 Public sentiment was crucial to Connecticut advocates efforts to enact statewide paid sick days. Voters favored the intensely debated legislation by a better than 2:1 margin, with nearly half of voters “strongly” supporting the bill.4
3. Turn defense into offense. The fight to defend policy achievements, such as preventing new loopholes after the elimination of minimum wage worker exclusions, presents an opportunity to maintain and grow the advocacy coalitions that first helped enact the policy. Gains in job quality standards will be under constant threat by opponents and other interests. Advocates should use these times as windows to grow their constituencies and renew media attention. Through their many defensive efforts, Missouri Jobs with Justice gained more spokespeople representing a broad spectrum of voices – low-wage workers, pastors and small business owners. These spokespeople are equipped to go to the Capitol to testify at hearings, be quoted in newspapers and speak face to face with legislators.
4. Utilize relevant scholarship and research. Advocates can buffet the common “job-killing” opposition arguments surrounding job quality standards by effectively deploying relevant research and scholarship. Decades of rigorous empirical research has demonstrated that minimum wage increases do not perpetuate unemployment, but rather grow local economies. Studies on California’s paid family leave policy illustrate that the program has had little to no negative effect on employers.5 Further evidence suggests that a paid-sick-days standard helps businesses reduce turnover and improve worker productivity. Since 2007, when San Francisco’s law took effect, job growth has been consistently higher in the city than in neighboring counties that lack a paid-sick-days law, and the city has experienced stronger employment growth in leisure and hospitality, accommodation and food service – the industries that critics claimed would be most affected by a paid-sick-days law.6
1 CFED thanks Tsedeye Gebreselassie of the National Employment Law Project and Donnie Morehouse and Charlie Edelen of Missouri Jobs with Justice for their contributions to this section.
2 Celinda Lake, Daniel Gotoff and Matt Price, memo for Raise the Minimum Wage, June 7 2011, “The Economic Power of and Popular Support for Raising the Minimum Wage,” http://www.raisetheminimumwage.com/sites/nelp2/index.php/pages/lake-research-partners-june-2011-memo-on-raising-the-minimum-wage.
3 Tom Smith and Jibum Kim, Paid Sick Days: Attitudes and Experiences, (Washington, DC: Public Welfare Foundation, 2010), http://www.publicwelfare.org/resources/DocFiles/psd2010final.pdf.
4 “Key Findings from Connecticut Statewide Survey,” Anzalone Lizst Research, http://everybodybenefits.org/wp-content/uploads/2011/05/Paid-sick-days-ct-poll-memo.pdf. (Accessed May 27, 2011).
5 Eileen Applebaum and Ruth Milkman, Leaves that Pay: Employer and Worker Experiences with Paid Leave in California, (Washington, DC: Center for Economic and Policy Research, 2011).
6 John Petro, Paid Sick Leave Does Not Harm Business Growth or Job Growth, (Washington, DC: Drum Major Institute, 2010), http://everybodybenefits.org/wp-content/uploads/2011/01/Paid_Sick_Leave_Does_Not_Harm.pdf.
For each edition of the Assets & Opportunity Scorecard since 2007, CFED has worked with experts in the field to capture detailed stories of noteworthy state policy changes—both policy victories and instructive defeats. These case studies appear in the Resource Guides for each policy priority.
Defending Minimum Wage in Missouri (published October 2012)
In Missouri, advocates led by Missouri Jobs with Justice formed Give Missourians a Raise, a campaign to pass a ballot initiative to raise the state minimum wage from $5.15 to $6.50 and index it to an annual cost of living adjustment…Despite the incredible popularity of the minimum wage increase in Missouri, opponents of Missouri’s minimum wage have engaged in a concerted effort each year to weaken the law. Click here to read more.
Paid Sick Leave Laws in DC and Connecticut (published October 2012)
Connecticut and the District of Columbia have led the states in establishing paid sick leave for workers. Advocates and policymakers in both jurisdictions have set a new standard for job quality and security for low-income workers through the passage of paid sick leave legislation. The passage of these laws signals significant progress to ensure earnings and eliminate the risk of job loss during times of illness. Click here to read more.
For a two-page overview of job quality standards, download CFED’s Policy Brief.
For an in-depth compendium of analysis, research, and resources on job quality standards, download CFED’s Resource Guide.
- The Center for Law and Social Policy
- The Center on Budget and Policy Priorities
- The Economic Policy Institute
- The National Employment Law Project
- The National Partnership for Women and Families
- The Institute for Women’s Policy Research