Hawaii’s workers need living wages

The Hawaii Legislature will soon decide on two minimum wage bills, SB789 SD2 and HB1191 HD1. These bills will gradually increase Hawaii’s minimum wage from the present $10.10 an hour to a more livable one of $15 an hour by 2023 for SB789 and 2024 for HB1191.

SB789 proposes giving tax breaks to small business (25 employees or less) to offset wage increases, while HB1191 has a two tier wage system of paying $12.50 an hour for workers with employee sponsored medical insurance and $15 an hour if medical insurance is not provided.

The House Labor Committee for SB789 has inserted language to eliminate paying a sub-minimum wage to disabled workers.

Presently in Hawaii, employees who work at least 20 hours a week are offered medical. These bills have been supported by many younger and lower paid workers with emotional testimonies.

Organizations like “Raise Up Hawaii” and “Living Wage Hawaii,” Women’s groups, unions and social service organizations like Catholic Charities have shown solid support. Both the Democratic Party of Hawaii Platform and the National Democratic Party call for a minimum of $15 an hour.

These bills should be supported but with amendments that reflect Hawaii’s high cost of living. Both should have a $17 minimum wage, but for HB1191, firms that offer insurance should pay their employees at least $14 an hour. This was in the original language in HB1191.

And why $17 an hour?

The State of Hawaii’s Department of Business, Economic Development and Tourism in its 2016 study, says that a single Hawaii worker needs at least $17 an hour to survive.

For a Kauai family of four with two full-time working adults, having a child in preschool and one of regular school age, both parents need to make at least $18.40 an hour each to support their family.

But even with these facts, it has been a struggle to get our legislators on board for $15 an hour. Even if most are Democrats. On the other hand, President Trump and the Republican Party want to keep the national minimum wage at the present $7.25 an hour.

In the state of Hawaii, more than 88,000 workers, work for the minimum $10.10 an hour. Workers in Washington, D.C., Illinois, New York City, Seattle, parts of Oregon, Massachusetts and Los Angeles have fought and won $15 an hour.

Presidential hopeful Bernie Sanders has helped the workers at Amazon and Disney win $15 an hour. For Hawaii’s wage earners this is not a radical idea. Please call Kauai legislators to support these bills. Call Senate President Ron Kouchi at 586-6063 and our House Reps Dee Morikawa at 586-6281, Nadine Nakamura 586-8435 and Jimmy Tokioka at 586-6227.


Raymond Catania is a resident of Lihue.

  1. Da Shadow March 26, 2019 3:16 am Reply

    Let’s start with jobs. >>no wages are being paid to the many people who are unable to perform work related to the 80+ vacation rentals currently off-limits in Ha’ena & Wainina.

    OPEN THE ROAD already.

  2. Dude March 26, 2019 8:58 am Reply

    I’m for minimum wage at $500/hr. Why not?

  3. RG DeSoto March 26, 2019 8:58 am Reply

    Really, Raymond?
    The state forcing employers to pay entry level workers more than their marginal product is “not a radical idea”? If that’s not a radical irrational idea, I’m not sure what is. If such a mandate becomes law just what do you think the effect will be on prices that these same people will have to pay for goods and services? Your problem is that you fall victim to the mentality of only looking at the “seen” and utterly failing to consider the unintended consequences…the “unseen”.
    Citing Bernie Sanders, a self avowed socialist and communist sympathizer, does nothing for your case…BTW. For heavens sake, Raymond, the man never held a job until he was elected mayor of some town in Vermont at age 40. He’s a moocher and tax leach.
    RG DeSoto

  4. Wages March 26, 2019 1:02 pm Reply

    If the state doesn’t want to increase wages then drop the state income tax and legalize recreational marijuana use and increase the GET tax to 5%. The recreational marijuana taxes has generated hundreds of millions of dollars to the 10 states that has legalized recreational use.

    The only reason the state doesn’t want to legalize recreational use is because their families and friends profit from illegal sales.

    Do something that benefits all instead of just the good ol boys and gals club.

  5. dderek March 26, 2019 8:44 pm Reply

    there’s actually a surplus of good paying work if you have a skill or some drive to excel and aren’t just some chronic expecting to get paid 17$/hr to be a nitwit.

  6. Socialism sucks March 27, 2019 4:39 am Reply

    Hawaii Democrats=terrible ideas that pander to the uneducated & misinformed. $15/hr minimum wage will drive out businesses and create fewer entry levelel jobs. Lets focus on lowering the cost of living by cutting taxes and developing workplace skills in our keiki.

  7. Makani B. Howard March 28, 2019 9:52 am Reply

    All of the small businesses will be gone soon enough. We will have fewer choices and big biz will take over.

  8. Charlie Chimknee March 29, 2019 12:06 am Reply

    How can employers pay higher wages when the gov’t is taxing the employers out of their ability to pay higher wages? And taxing the worker with sales,tax which actually acts to lower their wages even further.

    And then paying themselves higher wages for the elected ones and the gov’t hugher ups.


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