Minimum Wage

As one of the key leaders of the Hawai‘i Needs a Raise Coalition, Hawai‘i Appleseed helped make our state the third in the country to raise the minimum wage to $10.10. After eight years of stagnation, Act 82 was signed into law in 2014. The Act will increase the minimum wage to $10.10 over four years and provide a stronger wage protection provision for tipped workers. The tip credit can only be applied to workers earning more than $7 above the minimum wage, meaning we now have the strongest tipped wage in the country.

Facts About Minimum Wage

Hawaii example minimum wage budget

It’s simply not possible to survive solely on a full-time minimum wage job. McDonald’s infamous budget looks nothing like the economic reality facing workers. Check out this link for what some real McDonald’s workers’ budgets look like, and read on for a single person’s minimum monthly expenses here in Hawai‘i.

Rental housing: According to the National Low Income Housing Coalition, fair market rent for a studio in Hawai‘i is $1,159. A one-bedroom runs $1,278. A mortgage is completely out of reach for a minimum wage worker: the median price for a single family home is over $675,000, with the median condo sales price at $330,000.

Transportation: A monthly pass for The Bus is $60. The cost of owning a car in Hawai‘i is considered the highest in the nation, even if you’re only making the $150 payment suggested by McDonald’s.1 Meanwhile, gas prices are continually the highest in the country and not included in the budget.

Health insurance: The Hawaii Prepaid Health Care Act has helped make sure that employees working more than 20 hours per week can afford health care. For single coverage, an employer must pay at least half of the premium cost, but the worker's contribution cannot exceed 1.5% of monthly gross wages.

Cable and phone: Oceanic offers basic cable and a land line for $38. Low-speed internet is another $25, and a very basic cell phone plan would tack on about $35.

Electricity: Electricity costs are consistently the highest in the country. For a household of one, we estimate a bill of approximately $70 per month2.

Food: Food will cost a single adult in Hawai‘i approximately $293 per month based on the Thrifty Food Plan. This is the USDA’s standard for a nutritious diet at a minimal cost and is used as the basis for SNAP benefits.

Savings and asset building ($100/month budgeted by McDonald’s): Almost 15% of families in Hawai‘i are considered asset poor, meaning that they do not have sufficient net worth to survive three months at the poverty level in the absence of other income. Total net worth includes not only cash and savings, but also “durable assets,” such as a home, car, or business, that would need to be liquidated to cover everyday needs. When only cash or other monetary assets are considered, 30% of Hawai‘i’s households do not have enough to live at the poverty level for three months without any other income.

McDonald’s is right—asset building is critical to economic security, but it’s impossible to achieve at minimum wage.

The bottom line is that a single individual living frugally will struggle to make ends meet. It’s even more impossible for a worker supporting a family. The only options are taking a second job, as McDonald’s helpfully suggested, or securing public benefits. Our workers should be paid a fair wage for their hard work and the critical contributions they make to our economy. It’s time to raise the minimum wage.

Hawaii Needs a Raise Info Sheets

The Facts on Minimum Wage

End the Tip Credit: Let Workers Keep What They Earn


In November 2013, Hawaii Appleseed released a report entitled Creating a Fairer State Tax System and Economy for All Families, outlining our 5 policy strategies we aim to pursue in the 2014 legislative session, including raising the minimum wage.

Click here to read the full report.

Supersizing Public Costs: How Low Wages at Top Fast-Food Chains Leave Taxpayers Footing the Bill, by the National Employment Law Project, October 2013.

Fast Food, Poverty Wages: The Public Cost of Low-Wage Jobs in the Fast-Food Industry, by UC Berkeley Labor Center, October 2013

Additional Information

map of living wages across country using MIT calculator

who is helped by raising the minimum wage infographic by EPI
From the Economic Policy Institute. Read more

aikea real aloha real jobs
From Aikea. Read more

In The News

1The “true cost to own” is based on the average five-year cost for depreciation, financing, taxes, fees, insurance premiums, fuel costs, maintenance and repairs on a range of new and used vehicles.
2Based on 2011 average monthly bill of $203 in 2011 divided by Census data of household size 2007-2011 (2.93 persons per household) to calculate usage for a household of one.