Minimum wage battle begins

  • Contributed photo

    Mayor Derek Kawakami

The fight to increase Hawaii’s minimum wage is just beginning, and Kauai’s mayor offered his input on Thursday.

The House Committee on Labor &Public Employment passed HB1191 HD1 to increase Hawaii’s minimum wage. The bill would increase the state minimum wage on a gradual basis beginning on Jan. 1, 2020 through 2024, with smaller wage increases for employees receiving employer-sponsored health insurance.

“The bill balances the real need of lower-wage workers to keep up with Hawaii’s high cost of living and small businesses’ ability to continue doing business amidst the significant burdens imposed on them by the state,” said Rep. Aaron Ling Johanson, Chair of the Committee on Labor &Public Employment.

The minimum rose to $8.50 in 2016, $9.25 in 2017, and in 2018 it rose to $10.10, where it remains.

Under HB1191 HD1, the minimum wage for employees not receiving employer-sponsored health insurance will gradually increase until it reaches $15 in 2024, and $12.50 in 2024 for employees who are receiving employer-sponsored health insurance.

In his testimony, Mayor Derek S.K. Kawakami said that coming from the private sector managing Big Save and Menehune Food Marts, he understands how hard it is to operate a business in Hawaii.

“Government needs to find ways to lower costs of doing business in our state,” he said. “Raising the minimum wage is part of a larger conversation and not one that’s matured yet here on Kauai.”

The mayor said he would need the opportunity to listen to community members, which includes the small business sector and mom-and-pop shops.

“This is, however, a state issue and discussion has begun in the state Legislature,” he said.

The Chamber of Commerce Hawaii raised concerns with four proposals to increase Hawaii’s minimum wage in hearings at the State Capitol Thursday.

The Chamber asked lawmakers to consider the impact these bills would have on local businesses’ ability to continue to create jobs, survive in a high cost of living state and pay for benefits currently offered to employees.

“The passage of these bills would seriously harm local businesses, the state economy, job creation and, potentially, the very employees it is trying to help,” according to the chamber.

Hawaii is the only state that mandates employers pay for health insurance for all employees who work 20 or more hours per week.

This bill will next advance to the House Committee on Finance.


Bill Buley, editor-in-chief, can be reached at 245-0457 or

  1. Jose BULATAO February 2, 2019 8:49 am Reply

    The “balance” factor in raising the minimum wage must be clearly articulated. While wage earners may welcome every additional amount approved, we should also be prepared for increases in prices and taxes for goods and services as well. Won’t that upward spiral of expenses imposed on everyone nullify the “good intentions” to boost minimum wages? Remember when a bottle of coke could be purchased for just a nickel? Gone are the days!

  2. I saw a Vampire once February 2, 2019 12:52 pm Reply

    He meant it. The minimum wage was way to low. And you cannot possible make a living on the minimum. $8,75 per hour. Nobody goes by that anymore. It is either a salary job or an hourly job. Which one are you? This guy goes by a temporary pay job. It is only seasonal, so he gets paid when there is work. They give him work. I doubt it is the salary of $114,000 dollars per year. No way.

  3. curious dog February 2, 2019 8:05 pm Reply

    Since Mayor Kawakami is familiar w/the grocery business, here’s some history from when I was in it. Back in the 80’s, the AFL-CIO agreed to a vote to drop minimum hours worked at 13 per week for union members while still providing them w/a minimal amount of health insurance so that grocery stores would remain “union”. In today’s world, are grocery-store employees even Union members anymore? Are they protected or are they minimum wagers, hoping that their bosses will consider providing them w/insurance IF they work 20+ hours per week? How does this work in the grocery business? When I was in it, b/c of this union vote, grocery stores could work you 2 hours per day. What an assinine work schedule for anyone, let alone someone trying to raise a family & pay the bills.

    “Government needs to find ways to lower costs of doing business in our state,” he said. “Raising the minimum wage is part of a larger conversation and not one that’s matured yet here on Kauai.”

    What? Not matured? Wow! If you’re trying to skin the cat to save money for your business friends, you’re not considering your local worker & how they need to have cost of living wage increases, health insurance & hopefully some sort of savings account when they retire.

    Security for your residents should be priority rather than security for businesses who cater to wealthy tourists.

    To use a truly tired phrase….”just saying”

  4. Rev. Dr. Malama February 6, 2019 9:46 am Reply

    Kauai “mayor” already shows the campaign funds business over people priorities…..
    In reality, the only way for ordinary and honest Hawai’ians to survive is to get rid of THE JONES ACT, SUBSIDIZE LOCAL STARTUPS AND RETURN TO OUR NEUTRAL INDEPENDENT COUNTRY….. HAWAIIANKINGDOM.ORG

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *


By participating in online discussions you acknowledge that you have agreed to the TERMS OF SERVICE. An insightful discussion of ideas and viewpoints is encouraged, but comments must be civil and in good taste, with no personal attacks. If your comments are inappropriate, you may be banned from posting. To report comments that you believe do not follow our guidelines, send us an email.