Hawaiʻi legislators could boost minimum wage to $12 next year

A bill to raise Hawaiʻi’s minimum wage to $12 in July 2022 passed unanimously out of its first committee Monday, with more than 180 individuals and groups testifying in favor, most saying it should be much higher.

Hawaiʻi’s minimum wage is $10.10 per hour, a rate that took effect in January 2018. President Joe Biden has embraced the national “Fight for $15” campaign and is pushing to make it the federal minimum.

“Twelve dollars an hour is a start but still is not even close to a living wage,” Patrick Switzer testified to the Senate Committee on Labor, Culture and the Arts. “As a registered nurse working in Honolulu, I can tell you this increase would be a lifeline to the working poor, who are faced with impossible decisions each day, such as deciding between purchasing food for their kids and paying utility bills.”

Advocates for the bill argued that with Hawaii’s high cost of living, an increase in the minimum wage is vital for workers at the bottom of the scale. Many are considered essential and have been on the front lines during the pandemic and need the help, they testified. The $12 minimum would not take effect until July 1, 2022.

“Currently, 10 states and the District of Columbia have minimum wages higher than Hawaii,” testified Gary Hooser, executive director of Pono Hawaii Initiative. “Pandemic or no pandemic, 27 other states are raising their minimum wage this year. Hawaii needs to be No. 28.”

Other groups weighing in on behalf of the measure included Living Wage Hawaii, Hawaii Appleseed Center for Law &Economic Justice, Common Cause Hawaii, League of Women Voters of Hawaii, Americans for Democratic Action and labor unions such as the ILWU, Hawaii Government Employees Association and Hawaii State Teachers Association.

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