Crunch time for a living wage at the legislature

If you are earning less than $17 per hour at your job, a hearing being held at the State Capitol on Thursday could change that.

There have been numerous bills proposed to increase Hawaii’s minimum wage and Thursday the political will of legislators will be put to the test. Do they support the interests of low income working people, or not?

On one side you have the Hawaii Chamber of Commerce, beating the drum and claiming if the minimum wage is increased, the sky will surely fall.

They are at this very moment going door to door, lobbying legislators against increasing the Hawaii minimum wage. The Chamber mantra is that raising the minimum wage will put them out of business, will cause layoffs, and will make prices rise through the roof.

All of this is simply not true.

When Hawaii last raised the minimum wage from $7.25 to $10.10 per hour, nothing bad happened at all. There were no increases in bankruptcies, no increase in unemployment and no exceptional increases in inflation. The truth is that so long as future increases are phased in over time, nothing but good things will happen. People will earn more money, and they will spend more money. Consequently, the economy actually benefits when working people get paid a decent wage.

On one side of the issue there is the Chamber of Commerce and related interests, and on the other side we have the Democratic Party of Hawaii, who has declared that making Hawaii’s minimum wage a living wage is their number one priority.

In addition, labor groups on every island have indicated their support, as well as many in the faith based community. Organizations representing families, the working poor and other economic justice groups are aligned in solidarity on this issue.

The cynics, the jaded and some would say the pragmatist ­— are of course predicting that at the end of the day, the golden rule will prevail, “he who has the gold, rules.” And that legislators will cave in to the fear based pressure put upon them by the top 10 percent of income earners in our community.

It seems that the way of the world is that the people who have, will always push back against the people who have not. And the politics and tactics of fear dominate the politics and tactics of hope and justice.

I actually am more hopeful and believe at the end of the day, our legislators will take a deep breathe and do the right thing. But, as a self described pragmatic idealist, I know this will only happen if the community shows up and demands that it be so. Regular people without the money to travel to the capitol, and lobby the legislators have to be engaged in larger numbers to have the same impact as those who have the gold.

Emailing your own district senator and representative is the place to start. Submitting testimony is the next all important step. All of the information to do this can be found on the Hawaii State Legislatures website,

Please get involved. The voice of regular working people is needed now. Take a moment, engage the system. Your voice, combined with that of your neighbors and friends, can and will make a difference.

There have been numerous bills proposed and several are scheduled for a hearing this coming Thursday in both the House and the Senate labor committees. Please visit and review SB1248, SB789 and HB1191, and then offer testimony via email.

These measures, while welcome, in my opinion fall far short of what is needed. Hawaii workers deserve a minimum wage of at least $17 per hour. The Hawaii Department of Business and Economic Development has determined that this is the approximate amount that workers in Hawaii need, simply to survive. Is that asking too much? Shouldn’t every person that works a 40-hour week be entitled to earn enough so that they have a dry place to sleep, enough food to eat, and basic medical care?

History and research clearly shows that increasing the minimum wage incrementally over time, will not cause the sky to fall. Hawaii workers deserve a minimum wage that is sufficient to feed, clothe and house them. I encourage all to think hard about the basic humanity that is the foundation of this request.


Gary Hooser formerly served in the state Senate, where he was majority leader. He also served for eight years on the Kauai County Council and was former director of the state Office of Environmental Quality Control. He serves presently in a volunteer capacity as board president of the Hawaii Alliance for Progressive Action (HAPA) and is executive director of the Pono Hawaii Initiative.

  1. Jake January 30, 2019 4:28 am Reply

    Ummmmm, no….

    The minimum wage was never intended to feed, …..never meant to support,…. entire families or act as an engine to drive the economy. It was designed as a training wage for no skilled, lower-skilled, less-experienced workers.

    So to break it down………you were hired with no skills, learned skills, had value to company, and the more value you had to the company, the more you got paid.

    What incentive does a person have for improving their lot in life if they can make $17 an hour making French fries…..being paid (vice earning) $35,000.00 per year, before overtime, before potential employer provided healthcare, and before potential employer provided 401K is INSANE!

    So instead of providing 40 hours per week which requires benefits, the employer uses multiple part time employees. The net effect is the same for a specific position. Often left out of the discussion are the other costs like unemployment, social security, wage tax and workers comp. If an employer provides benefits like health insurance or 401k matching that $17 per hour climbs to over $25 real fast. Seems like a lot money for someone to ring a register or flip burgers.

    This is the typical liberal American in 2019. Instead of increasing your marketable value to an employer, via education, certification, learning a marketable trade, instead you complain to GOVERNMENT to solve your problems……in other word, the EASY thing. The Hard thing, which requires EFFORT, is avoided at all costs.

    Cue the robots and automation…..Stop the madness!

    1. Pete Antonson January 30, 2019 2:06 pm Reply

      A minimum wage job is “… the EASY thing” and does not require effort.

      Yep, ole Jake either never worked one or 40 years has affected his memory!

      1. Jake February 1, 2019 1:57 pm Reply


        “If you envy what others have, but don’t have the ambition to earn it yourself….

        …..then you are probably a Bernie Sanders fan”

  2. James I Kuroiwa January 30, 2019 5:32 am Reply

    I started as a student after 8th grade to work during summer for Grove Farm at $0.86 per hour. That experience was valuable, extremely valuable. That experience gave me the drive to do my best in what ever I was involved in, to develop that internal drive to do my best in my education and other work experiences. My initial experience at $0.86 per hour made me look at other student summer work that paid more, and yes, the next summer worked picking pineapple that paid more per hour, and the next year in the weed control (sabidong gang) earning Grade 3 as a junior in High School. With the proposed “Living Wage” are we not taking the American dream away from employees? Oh yes, I graduate from Manoa.

    1. Ginger Doll February 2, 2019 8:49 am Reply

      What was the minimum wage when you were paid 86 cents an hour?
      How many Hawaiians were facing homelessness?
      You were fortunate to have lived through the best of times when the American Dream was a reality for Hawaiians. How many youngsters growing up here today will become homeowners?
      Minimum wage laws were created during the Great Depression in an attempt to lift people from poverty. With massive unemployment, employers would take advantage of desperate jobless citizens.
      To those among us who oppose living wage legislation, is it because we are like those employers in the depression who enjoyed the benefits of cheap labor?

  3. Ken Conklin January 30, 2019 7:21 am Reply

    So, the latest edition of the Hooser Newser tells us “Hawaii workers deserve a minimum wage that is sufficient to feed, clothe and house them” and therefore “Hawaii workers deserve a minimum wage of at least $17 per hour.”

    Why only $17? Why not a nice, round figure like $20, or even $30?

    And what about entry-level jobs mowing lawns or working at McDonalds, where teenagers develop job skills and don’t have to worry about earning a wage “sufficient to feed, clothe and house them” because Mommy and Daddy are already feeding, clothing, and housing them.

    Hooser Newser is a loser, with frequent columns not balanced by opposing views, turning this newspaper into a propaganda rag for the far left.

  4. Ginger Doll January 30, 2019 7:56 am Reply

    Hawaii must decide: Does it want to be a low wage state or a high wage state.
    The massive influence of the tourist industry has priced much of our population out of a place to live and without food stamps, sufficient food to sustain our families.
    The dignity of a job must include a living wage. The Chamber of Commerce cares more about the profits of the big hotels charging more than $300 a night than it does about families on the brink of homelessness. Why not make them pay their workers a little more and send a little less of those profits to the Mainland.
    More money in workers pockets is spent locally, stimulating the local economy supporting small business and their employees.

  5. Oingo boingo January 30, 2019 8:05 am Reply

    Absolutely the Minimum wage needs to increase. Record numbers of tourist are flooding our island and businesses are doing very well.
    Why not spread some Aloha down the food chain.

    1. Jake January 30, 2019 3:27 pm Reply

      Ok, I’m going to let you in on a little secret………..many of your favorite tourists are “living on the cheap” and have been for years, and years, and years.

      They live somewhere on the planet where the median price of a home is NOT $750,000.

      They are living on the planet where the cost of living is much less, and they are not extorted by the Jones Act.

      They live somewhere on the planet where there are job opportunities, ……real opportunities,……vice working in the ONLY industry on the islands: Supporting Tourism.

      So, they “are doing very well” because they live in a much lower cost location, and have much better jobs (opportunity).

      They are living on the cheap, and can SAVE money. You think all the tourists are the top 1% earners on the planet?????? Stop the madness!

  6. Doodoo head January 30, 2019 10:33 am Reply

    Absolutely the Minimum wage should be raised..We have been having record numbers of tourist
    Flooding our island and businesses
    Have been doing very well..
    Why not sent some Aloha down the
    Food chain..

    1. Jake January 30, 2019 3:27 pm Reply

      ** See above.

      Stop the madness!

  7. harry oyama January 30, 2019 11:44 am Reply

    How about reducing taxes for a change, this liberal idea of raising the minium wage is just another ruse to tax them more so in effect you’re back to square one, but these rotten politicians and their cronies are the ones laughing all the way to the bank!

    No one has yet done a study of how much these sleaze bag upper management gets upon retirement, padding the high three pension plan and getting much more then you will ever make in your life time. Add up the outrageous pension compensation of recently retired politicians who never worked 20 years but used some trumped up formula often making 6 figure pensions for life to include many State executives often double dipping and coming back as private contractors especially in the DOE’s billion dollar plus budget.

    Makes you wonder why the DOE inspite of having the largest share of the State’s budget always asking for more money for “the kids”, but in reality, its to line their own pockets. The FBI should investigate the same way they clamped down on HPD former chief Kealoha and his wife.

  8. RG DeSoto January 30, 2019 1:19 pm Reply

    More absolute nonsense that will hurt those it is meant to help by destroying the market for low skilled people. Of course, what else to expect from Hooser and his economically ignorant comrades.
    RG DeSoto

  9. randy kansas January 30, 2019 3:27 pm Reply

    I am all for higher wages, maybe even higher minimums;

    but market forces should also be a factor in wage supply and demand;

    one issue, is that if a “newby”, low skilled worker can start at $17-20 per hour, it also drives up wage expectations of all of the other workers….meaning somebody making $25 per hour, will now want more money since they are “barely above minimum wage”

    upward pressure on all wages etc…most people wanting these type policies have never hired anyone, run anything or owned anything !

    it drives up the cost of everything, even if not a direct minimum wage job !

    thanks and think about that…..


  10. manawai January 30, 2019 10:22 pm Reply

    Hoozer said, “When Hawaii last raised the minimum wage from $7.25 to $10.10 per hour, nothing bad happened at all. There were no increases in bankruptcies, no increase in unemployment and no exceptional increases in inflation.”
    Hoozer fails to admit that more and more Hawaii people are leaving here due to the increasing high cost of living and that raising these wages will increase the cost of living and that outflow of our families. Hawaii actually lost population last year due to the skyrocketing cost of living here (see link below).
    He said, “The truth is that so long as future increases are phased in over time, nothing but good things will happen.”
    Like more and more of Hawaii’s people leaving their homeland due to initiatives like this that will further put further burdens on those who have the least ability to afford it. Less jobs, more automation…that’s what Hoozer’s thinking will bring us.
    “I encourage all to think hard about the basic humanity….”
    We are which is why we’re against your befuddled thinking.
    Read this GIN article so you get the truth:

  11. dderek January 31, 2019 8:01 pm Reply

    increasing wages = increasing costs of living

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