An exercise in civic engagement

Game on. HB2541 HD1 which among other things proposes to increase Hawai‘i’s minimum wage to $13, is scheduled for its first hearing in the Hawai‘i State Senate Committee on Labor, Culture and the Arts, this coming Thursday, March 12 at 3:15pm in room #224 at the Capitol on O‘ahu.

Now is the time for Kaua‘i residents to weigh in, and I encourage all to do so.

By now, regular readers are well aware of my position on the issue.

People who work 40 hours a week, deserve to be paid a wage that allows them a dry, safe place to live, 3 decent meals a day and basic health care.

To those who say that “this is not the time” and/or “this is bad for business” – the research says otherwise and it’s very clear that the opposite is true.

Increasing the minimum wage is an economic stimulus. Low income working people spend the money they earn almost immediately back into the local economy. We can help working people and provide an economic stimulus at the same time by increasing our minimum wage now, putting all Hawai‘i on a path to a true living wage.

The research and historical experience here locally in Hawai‘i is solid and irrefutable. As long as increases are phased in over time, negative economic impacts on business are minimal to nonexistent. Following the last increase in Hawai‘i’s minimum wage, there were no increases in unemployment, no increases in bankruptcy and no related or inordinate increases in inflation. These are facts. Check the public record if you doubt it.

The time of reckoning for the first of two committees in the State Senate is here and it is critically important that Hawai‘i residents across all islands, reach out to this first committee immediately to share their thoughts and feelings on the issue.

If you believe as I do, that $13 is not enough and Hawai‘i’s working men and women deserve a living wage of at least $17 by 2025 – please share this message via testimony TODAY by emailing –

Put your main message in the subject line: RE: HB2541 HD1 – $13 is not enough, please increase the minimum wage to $17 by 2025 (or whatever your main message might be)

Of course, if you believe that only the strongest survive and it’s every man/woman for themselves and that people should “pull themselves up by their boot-straps” (which is physically and metaphorically impossible) – then also exercise your right to offer testimony as well.

Email your testimony as soon as possible and no later than the end of today, as testimony must be submitted 24 hours in advance of the hearing (though late testimony is normally accepted also).

To increase the impact of your message, I suggest you cc your testimony email to our own Kaua‘i Senator and the current Senate President, Senator Ron Kouchi at

As is true for all communications in life, business and politics, please keep your message polite, professional and courteous.

To view the STATUS and read Bill HB2541, visit the main website for the legislature and enter the bill number at (editor note – please include entire url as is if possible)

Note: The Chair of the Senate Committee on Labor, Culture and the Arts, Senator Brian Taniguchi and a majority on the committee have historically been friends of working people and supportive of increasing the minimum wage above the $13 level.

Last year his committee supported a $15 increase, however the House of Representatives pulled the plug and refused to agree. Please frame your messages in a positive light and perhaps thank him for his past support, while asking that he amend HB2541 HD1 and put Hawai‘i on the path to $17 and a true living wage.

This is perhaps the most important email testimony that you will be asked to send out this year. Your active involvement today can help improve the lives of over half of the people living and working in our community – on every island.

Please, do the exercise and take action today. Send the email, make the calls and share this message with your networks and friends. It’s important.


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

  1. Steve Martin March 11, 2020 1:27 pm Reply

    A true “living wage” comes from experience and education. Minimum wage is just that not to be ever meant as a living wage. Stop trying to make a minimum wage a living wage . It will not ever be what you think it should be. Have you been to the market lately? Out to dinner, movie clothing store. Everything is constantly increasing .Triple the minimum wage and you still have an extreme hard time making ends meet for one person living in paradise. We should not be forced by politicians mouths that tell government to take our hard earned dollars and feed those who choose to live where they cannot afford to live. Instead encourage young people to stay in school. Encourage better paying jobs through trade schools for adults who have none. No skills equals minimum wage period. Raising minimum wage to what you think it should be will only takes more money out of the consumers pocket there by raising the costs of living beyond reach. Please enough already!!

  2. Rev Dr Malama March 12, 2020 9:57 am Reply

    Hey Gary, you’re arguement for the Hawaii State version of a minunium wage wage bill makes no cents…. especially to local small businesses!
    What does, ironically, make sense is to “weigh in ” as a way to stay alive during the next year or so…. it’s recommended that people overweight lose 10 pounds, walk a mile a day and self isolate from large crowds in confining places!!!
    Get your priorities straight, wash your hands, roll up your sleeves and make a difference in a Kupuna’s life today!!!

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