Assuming Governor Ige’s approval, Hawaii’s minimum wage will increase from $10.10 per hour to $12 in October, then phased increases will continue until it reaches $18 in 2028. In addition working families should celebrate the fact that the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) was also made permanent and refundable.
Credit for this win goes first to those in the community who took the time to call, send email, and offer testimony in support – over and over and over again for the past 4 years. It is those who stayed the course, who stood in the hot sun holding signs, wrote letters to the editor, and reached out directly to their district legislators – who should be applauded first for this victory.
Sending those countless emails and making those telephone calls, does in fact make a difference.
Also to be recognized and thanked is retiring State Senator Brian Taniguchi who year after year has been a champion for this issue. He is the legislator who has kept the effort to increase the minimum wage alive and ultimately ensured its passage.
While House Speaker Scott Saiki and his leadership faction will claim the credit, this group has actually been the greatest impediment to increasing the minimum wage and denying workers a pay increase over the past 4 years.
While they publicly have professed support, Saiki and his team have effectively blocked all increases that have been proposed and supported by the Senate, year after year.
This year is different because each and every legislator is up for reelection. With few exceptions, each and every legislator wants to keep their job. It’s a natural impulse and not inherently a bad thing.
Speaker Saiki came within 167 votes of losing his 2020 reelection to Kim Coco Iwamoto, who is challenging him again this year. Kim Coco made Saiki’s failure to increase the minimum wage and his lack of support for working people, a primary pillar of her campaign.
And voila! Speaker of the House Scott Saiki changes from being the main roadblock of increasing the minimum wage to literally its loudest cheerleader.
Fear of losing your next election is a powerful motivator. That fear, combined with the relentless collective actions of many individual advocates from across all the islands – is what made this win possible.
When legislators run unopposed they too often become unresponsive to community concerns. But when someone throws their hat in the ring to run against them, that tune quickly changes.
Bottom line: We need to identify and support qualified candidates to step up to challenge those incumbent legislators who have become complacent, unresponsive, and unwilling to make the sometimes tough policy changes needed.
As a Democrat I believe we need to “primary” incumbent Democrats who block people and the planet first policy initiatives, or just as worse – those that just sit there and do nothing.
We need change-makers, not just placeholders. We shouldn’t have to bludgeon our lawmakers with daily onslaughts of email and phone calls just to get them to move off the dime and do the right thing.
A strong mahalo is due to the many in our community and around the state who have taken the time to take action these past 4 months, and these past 4 years – in support of increasing Hawaii’s minimum wage.
We won and it would not have happened without the individual actions of many, and you know who you are. It also wouldn’t have happened without the help and support of Senator Brian Taniguchi, Senate leadership including Senate President Ron Kouchi, and a handful of strong outspoken progressives in the House.
Mahalo to all of you for this win. Mahalo especially to Kim Coco Iwamoto for stepping up to challenge the most powerful Representative in the House. Imua 2022!
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