Top executives of Hawaii’s largest publicly traded companies received an average pay increase of more than $750,000 in 2021. Their average take-home pay:$4.5 million (HNN).
Hawaii legislators themselves will receive a 10% pay raise this coming year, and most if not all public workers have also had their pay increases approved.
Yet Hawaii’s minimum wage of $10.10 has not increased since 2014. Since then, top legislative leaders have talked about an increase, said that they supported an increase, and promised an increase – and broken those promises every year.
Economic studies produced by the State of Hawaii Department of Business and Economic Development state that while each county is slightly different, “In 2020, a single adult on Kauai with no children needed to earn an hourly wage of $19.33 to be economically self-sufficient. That was 94.4% above the state minimum wage level and 178.1% above the federal poverty threshold for Hawaii.”
On January 28 the Senate passed SB2018, proposing a phased-in minimum wage increase reaching $18 per hour by 2026. Governor Ige offered written testimony in support and the Senate vote was only one short of being unanimous.
The House refused to even grant SB2018 a hearing.
Instead, they preferred to hear only “their bill” HB2510, which was inferior in many ways, contained too many moving parts and did not reach the $18 mark until 2030.
The Senate as the only adult in the room, dutifully scheduled, amended, and passed HB2510 SD1. The measure now contains the $18 by 2026 provision and removes entirely the “tip penalty” that allows restaurants to pay a sub-minimum wage to their workers.
The House then rejected the amendments presented by the Senate.
Both of these bills are “ready to go and clean”, both achieve the $18 threshold in 2026, and both have been rejected by the House.
To be clear Speaker of the House Scott Saiki is calling the shots on this and so far has refused to allow a vote on either measure by the entire House of Representatives.
The Senate has already passed $18 by 2026 almost unanimously. It stands to reason that the House would do similarly IF Speaker Saiki would allow them to vote on it.
But no, the Speaker is not allowing a vote and instead is forcing the issue into the Conference Committee process where it will be negotiated (weakened or killed) behind closed doors.
During the Conference Committee process the House and Senate “Conferees” will meet in public at a scheduled time where they announce and formally convene. They will then recess and meet in private behind closed doors.
Behind closed doors the two sides will attempt to “leverage” the other side, using the political volatility of the minimum wage bill as a wedge to force action on other bills. They will essentially say, “I will not pass this minimum wage bill unless you pass (or don’t pass, or weaken, or amend in some specific way) some other bill that may or may not be related to the minimum wage issue.”
It’s a game legislators play. Too often, it’s a game driven by ego and personal grudges.
It’s pathetic really. Grown men responsible for looking out for us, preferring instead to play their macho games of one-upmanship.
Please call and email today: Speaker of the House Scott Saiki (McCully, Kaheka, Kakaako, Downtown Honolulu) at 808-586-6100 and repsaiki@Capitol.hawaii.gov
Please also call and email today: Senate President Ron Kouchi (Kauai) at 808-586-6030 and firstname.lastname@example.org
Tell them both to end the games, strike a deal that workers can celebrate, and take the vote.
Please copy your district Senator and Representative also.
If Saiki and Kouchi cannot bring their respective teams to an agreement, working people will end up with nothing. Nothing that is, except more broken promises from more broken politicians.