‘Fight for $15’ reaches Hawaii

Green to in­tro­duce bill for higher min­i­mum wage

Hawaii Tribune Herald - - FRONT PAGE - By TOM CALLIS

A $15 an hour min­i­mum wage is get­ting the sup­port of at least one Hawaii Is­land law­maker. Sen. Josh Green, D-Kona, Ka‘u, said he will in­tro­duce a bill in the up­com­ing ses­sion to boost the wage — which in­creased Jan. 1 from $8.50 to $9.25 — in­cre­men­tally to $15 by 2023.

He said the in­crease is needed be­cause of Hawaii’s high cost of liv­ing and that the pre­vi­ous min­i­mum wage bill passed in 2014 didn’t go far enough. The last sched­uled in­crease will be to $10.10 next year.

“The re­cent in­creases were very long over­due and still in­ad­e­quate,” Green said.

“Work­ing fam­i­lies are strug­gling, so we as leg­is­la­tors have a moral obli­ga­tion to act.”


His goal is to reach a “liv­ing wage” that he said would re­duce home­less­ness and de­mand for pub­lic as­sis­tance pro­grams or other ben­e­fits.

“We’re pay­ing for a lot of ben­e­fits that peo­ple end up need­ing,” Green said.

Mike Kaleikini, pres­i­dent of the Hawaii Is­land Cham­ber of Com­merce, said the busi­ness or­ga­ni­za­tion would be con­cerned about in­creas­ing costs to small busi­nesses.

He said the cham­ber’s fo­cus is on cre­at­ing a “ro­bust econ­omy” to ad­dress is­sues such as hous­ing.

“In gen­eral, I can tell you that the cham­ber has not sup­ported the in­creases in the min­i­mum wage to a great ex­tent be­cause it would af­fect small busi­nesses we rep­re­sent,” Kaleikini said.

Green said a higher min­i­mum wage would give work­ers more money to spend at local shops, though he said he is open to re­duc­ing the im­pact on small busi­nesses. He said that could come in the form of a tax break or ex­emp­tion for those who em­ploy less than 20 peo­ple.

A bill pro­posed by Rep. Kaniela Ing, D-South Maui, would go fur­ther.

In a press re­lease, Ing said Tues­day he will in­tro­duce a bill to in­crease the wage to $15 by 2019 and $22 by 2022, and tie it to the con­sumer price in­dex. The leg­isla­tive ses­sion starts Jan. 18.

“Work­ing fam­i­lies are strug­gling, so we as leg­is­la­tors have a moral obli­ga­tion to act,” he said.

Ac­cord­ing to Hawaii News Now, Green ini­tially was con­sid­er­ing a bill to top out the min­i­mum wage at $22 an hour in 2022. His lat­est pro­posal ap­pears to back away from that.

“I’m re­al­is­tic that this does cre­ate pres­sures on busi­nesses,” Green said. “What I’ve said is we should def­i­nitely move to $15 an hour, which would be the bare liv­ing wage, and we would get in­put from ex­perts about where to go from there.”

The $15 min­i­mum wage is part of a push na­tion­wide, known as the “Fight for $15,” led by la­bor and other groups that started with or­ga­niz­ing fast-food work­ers.

A $15 min­i­mum wage will be in­tro­duced statewide in Cal­i­for­nia for busi­nesses with at least 26 em­ploy­ees in 2022. A few ma­jor cities, such as San Fran­cisco, New York City and Seat­tle, adopted their own $15 min­i­mum wage laws.

Green’s bill would in­crease Hawaii’s min­i­mum wage by a dol­lar a year start­ing in 2019 un­til it reaches $15.

HOLLYN JOHN­SON/Tri­bune-Her­ald

Nate Par­ris, who earns min­i­mum wage, serves a cup of cof­fee to a cus­tomer Tues­day af­ter­noon at Hilo Shark’s Cof­fee on the corner of Keawe Street and Wa­ianu­enue Av­enue in Down­town Hilo.



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