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Labor thrives in some states. Photo: Bettmann/Getty Images

Amid gridlock in boardrooms and Congress on proposals to improve worker pay and employment conditions, state governments have taken the lead, forcing companies to raise minimums and add benefits.

The big picture: Most states have enacted minimum wages exceeding the federal $7.25-an-hour rate that's been in place for nine years. But there is a wide range of hourly rates and working conditions, and none of the state minimums provides a living wage for a family, says Oxfam in a new national study.

The background: Since the 1980s, the U.S, the U.K. and some other developed countries have largely stopped treating labor as an economic policy priority, focusing instead on corporate profit.

  • But states with labor organizing rights and accommodation for women before and after pregnancy had better GDP growth, lower poverty and infant mortality, and higher life expectancy and median income, the report said.
  • "We lost an understanding that when workers have protections, it helps families, the customers who rely on those services, and the larger economy," Minor Sinclair, director of Oxfam in the U.S., tells Axios.

The report found enormous disparities between some neighboring states, dramatized by the juxtaposition of Washington, DC (the best conditions) and Virginia (the worst).

  • Still, while most states have raised minimums to as high as $13.25 an hour (Washington, DC), in no state was the rate even half the living wage for a family of four, the report said.

According to Oxfam, the four best states to work, in rank after DC, were Washington state, California, Massachusetts and Vermont. The worst five, starting with No. 46, were North Carolina, Georgia, Alabama, Mississippi and Virginia.

Go deeper: Six classic profiles of the lives of workers, from The New Yorker.

Go deeper

Updated 3 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Coronavirus dashboard

Illustration: Eniola Odetunde/Axios

  1. Health: Most vulnerable Americans aren't getting enough vaccine information — Fauci says Trump administration's lack of facts on COVID "very likely" cost lives.
  2. Politics: Biden unveils "wartime" COVID strategyBiden's COVID-19 bubble.
  3. Vaccine: Florida requiring proof of residency to get vaccine — CDC extends interval between vaccine doses for exceptional cases.
  4. World: Hong Kong to put tens of thousands on lockdown as cases surge.
  5. Sports: 2021 Tokyo Olympics hang in the balance.
  6. 🎧 Podcast: Carbon Health's CEO on unsticking the vaccine bottleneck.

Trump impeachment trial to start week of Feb. 8, Schumer says

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer. Photo: The Washington Post via Getty

The Senate will begin former President Trump's impeachment trial the week of Feb. 8, Majority Leader Chuck Schumer announced Friday on the Senate floor.

The state of play: Schumer announced the schedule after reaching an agreement with Republicans. The House will transmit the article of impeachment against the former president late Monday.

4 hours ago - Health

CDC extends interval between COVID vaccine doses for exceptional cases

Photo: Joseph Prezioso/AFP via Getty

Patients can space out the two doses of the coronavirus vaccine by up to six weeks if it’s "not feasible" to follow the shorter recommended window, according to updated guidance from the Centers for Disease and Control and Prevention.

Driving the news: With the prospect of vaccine shortages and a low likelihood that supply will expand before April, the latest changes could provide a path to vaccinate more Americans — a top priority for President Biden.