Hawaii’s minimum wage needs to start at $17 per hour and strive to be a living wage.

Every person willing to work 40 hours per week, deserves to earn a wage that is sufficient to provide basic shelter, food and medical care.  This statement should not be debatable.

A friend once told me, “There is no such thing as a bad job, there are only bad wages.”

Hawaii’s Department of Business and Economic Development (DBED) estimates the very basic minimum living wage for a single person without children, to be approximately $17 per hour.

Hawaii’s current minimum wage is $10.10 per hour.

The State Legislature will be considering Bills, during the 2019 legislative session to gradually raise Hawaii’s minimum wage until it eventually reaches the living wage threshold (now at $17).  

This bold, forward thinking, people centered public policy making, could in fact actually happen, but only if working people across the state get involved and demand it.

The reality of the legislative process is that very often major decisions are based simply upon which way the wind is blowing.  The facts and circumstances are of course important, but it is the wind of public sentiment that makes things move (or not) at the legislature.

Regular working people, families, singles, young and old people who slave everyday earning substandard wages across Hawaii, hold the power and strength of Hurricante Iniki on this issue.  

If Hawaii’s rank and file workers, can set aside some small amount of time to engage this issue, and use the power they have – then Hawaii’s minimum wage can in fact become a living wage.

Research and historical experience here in Hawaii clearly shows, that the impacts on our economy will only be positive.  And that nothing bad has ever happened when the minimum wage has been raised in the past in Hawaii.  The key component of implementation is small steady increases over time that exceed the annual cost of living, or consumer price index (CPI).

Various business and the Chamber of Commerce will of course tell you that if Hawaii raises its minimum wage gradually over time to achieve a living wage threshold, that the sky will surely fall.

Yes, in some cases prices will rise in order to cover the increased cost incurred by the business.  In other cases the profits of the business may be reduced somewhat.  Yes, consumers may have to pay an additional 25 cents for that elusive gelato, or burger, or plate lunch, or whatever.  But as an island state no business will have to fear consumers driving across the state line where wages might be lower to buy their burger cheaper.

I have owned small businesses myself in the past and know full well the stress and strain that comes with meeting a payroll on the first and the fifteenth.  I understand that operating a small business in a small marketplace is hard and managing costs are a critical component.  However, because every business will be playing by the same rules, the competitive pricing among all business will remain constant. 

We may all pay a small amount more for our fast food and cheap clothing from the big box stores, but we will all also benefit from the additional economic activity as these same dollars are recirculated in our economy.  

More importantly, our entire community will benefit from the fact that all will be able to afford the basics.  Homelessness will be reduced, crime will be reduced, and drug addiction and its related issues will be reduced.  And, the very real public and societal costs we are all paying now to deal (or to not deal) with these issues will likewise be reduced.

Setting the minimum wage floor at an amount sufficient to keep a person dry, fed and healthy is not a new or particularly radical concept. Per a December 2017 report on CNBC, 13 other metropolitan areas in the U.S. now have a minimum wage that is sufficient to be considered a living wage, including: Tucson AZ, Fresno CA, Mesa AZ, Toledo OH, Detroit MI, Buffalo NY, Phoenix AZ, Omaha NE and Columbus Ohio.  Some of these areas have larger populations than Hawaii and some smaller.

The 2019 legislative session begins on January 16th.  The Democratic Party of Hawaii has declared a living wage as its #1 priority.  A majority of the elected members in both the House and the Senate have stated publicly that they support a living wage.

However the reality is that the legislature will not move on this important issue without a loud and broad-based show of support from the general public.  And this support must be voiced now, early to ensure that this important issue gets on the legislative radar, and stays there until passed into law.

Big business lobbyists are already walking the halls and hosting expensive meet and greet, and eat and drink gatherings at fancy restaurants near the capitol.  These lobbyists are at this moment, pressing forward their legislative agenda up close and personal, directly with lawmakers on a daily basis.

While regular working people do not have the luxury of hosting fancy gatherings in downtown Honolulu, we do have people power on our side.  But we must use it, and we must show up and press our case before these same legislators.

Please take a moment today to call and to email the below 6 key legislators.  Then email please your own district Representative and your Senator, TODAY – asking that they support raising the minimum wage to $17 per hour and eventually to a living wage, phased in over time.

While it is too early to quote a bill #, it is not too early to ask for their support.  

Without the involvement of regular working people, the voice of the corporate lobbyists will dominate the conversation.

Regular working people, students and families struggling just to make ends meet, must find the time to get involved and have their voices heard as well.

The message must be loud, clear and persistent (as in professional, courteous and continuous), that a minimum wage must be a living wage.

  1.  The 6 most influential legislators for this issue are:

Representative Aaron Johanson, Chair House Labor Committee repjohanson@Capitol.hawaii.gov

Representative Sylvia Luke , Chair House Finance Committee, repluke@Capitol.hawaii.gov

Representative Scott Saiki , Speaker of the House, repsaiki@Capitol.hawaii.gov

Senator Brian Taniguchi, Chair Senator Labor Committee, sentaniguchi@capitol.hawaii.gov

Senator Donovan Dela Cruz, Chair Senate Ways and Means, sendelacruz@capitol.hawaii.gov

Senator Ronald Kouchi, Senate President, senkouchi@capitol.hawaii.gov

2) You can locate your specific legislator and the contact information at http://www.capitol.hawaii.gov

3) AND please also email ALL Senators and ALL Representatives at these two email addresses: sens@capitol.hawaii.gov and reps@capitol.hawaii.gov 


About garyhooser

This blog represents my thoughts as an individual person and does not represent the official position of any organization I may be affiliated with. I presently serve as volunteer President of the Hawaii Alliance for Progressive Action (H.A.P.A.) www.hapahi.org I am the former Vice-Chair of the Democratic Party of Hawaii. In another past life, I was an elected member of the Kauai County Council, a Hawaii State Senator, and Majority Leader, and the Director of Environmental Quality Control for the State of Hawaii - in an even earlier incarnation I was an entrepreneur and small business owner. Yes, I am one of the luckiest guys on the planet. Please visit my website AND sign up for my newsletter (unlike any email newsletter you have ever gotten, of that I am sure) - http://www.garyhooser.com/#four “Come to the edge.” “We can’t. We’re afraid.” “Come to the edge.” “We can’t. We will fall!” “Come to the edge.” And they came. And he pushed them. And they flew. - Christopher Logue (b.1926)
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2 Responses to Hawaii’s minimum wage needs to start at $17 per hour and strive to be a living wage.

  1. Virginia Beck says:

    I think this is a valiant attempt to rectify imbalances. But we need more rent controlled publicly subsidized, mixed use housing. Raising wages, will effectively choke new businesses trying to break through into sustainability. Sure, some increases. But maybe leveraged toward the hospitality industry, and LARGE employers. Perhaps businesses with less than 5 employees, might have different thresholds. Palo Alto has public housing with moderate rent open rentals, mixed in with lower rent subsided housing for disabled and public assistance. The MIX prevents Ghettoizing low income housing. Or High income housing. They have found it works.

    For further considerations.

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