Support our youth! Ban conversion "therapy"

Pride At Work Hawai’i strongly supports HB1789, which would "protect the physical and psychological well-being of minors, including lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender youth, against exposure to serious harms caused by sexual orientation change efforts.”

As the American Psychological Association notes, “efforts to change sexual orientation through therapy... have serious potential to harm young people because they present the view that the sexual orientation of lesbian, gay, and bisexual youth is a mental illness or disorder, and they often frame the inability to change one’s sexual orientation as a personal and moral failure.”  The American Psychiatric Association agrees, noting that “the potential risks of reparative therapy are great, including depression, anxiety and self-destructive behavior.”

Further, the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals has ruled that a gay-conversion therapy ban passed in California did not violate the constitutional rights of counselors, minor patients or their parents.

Trying to force anyone - especially a minor - to change a basic part of themselves, such as sexual orientation, through repudiated and potentially harmful means, is a form of child abuse, which no one in a position of State-sanctioned authority should be allowed to practice. 

Follow this bill's status here.

Solidarity with Kumu Hina!

A growing chorus of local leaders and organizations - including Honolulu Pride, Trans Spectrum Hawai'i, GLBT Caucus, Rainbow Family 808, and Equality Hawai'i - have condemned recent transphobic statements by Tito Montes, the President of the Hawaii Republican Assembly, against Hinaleimoana Wong-Kalu as part of an attack on the DOE's Pono Choices curriculum.  Montes' statement can be found here.  Pride At Work Hawai'i has issued the following statement in response:

January 23, 2014

Pride At Work Hawai'i strongly condemns the recent hateful statement of Hawaii Republican Assembly (HIRA) President Tito Montes against O'ahu Island Burial Council chair and Office of Hawaiian Affairs trustee candidate Hinaleimoana Wong-Kalu.   As an organization advocating for full equality and inclusiveness in our workplaces and our unions for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, intersex, and queer workers, we are outraged by Mr. Montes' attempt to denigrate Mrs. Wong-Kalu, a respected kumu hula, educator, and Hawaiian-rights advocate, on the basis of her gender identity.  Pride At Work Hawai'i calls upon Mr. Montes and HIRA to immediately retract the statement, apologize to Mrs. Wong-Kalu, and join human rights advocates in fighting discrimination and intolerance against people on the basis of their gender identity and expression.

In Mr. Montes' December 23, 2013 statement on the HIRA website, part of an unfounded and ill-informed attack on the DOE’s Pono Choices curriculum, he made denigrating claims about Kumu Hina's gender identity and presentation and negative insinuations about her work with youth.  The statement is all too indicative of the intolerance, bigotry, and violence our transgender brothers and sisters face here in Hawai‘i and around the US.  Transgender people face unemployment rates double the national average, extremely high levels of workplace harassment, and four times the rate of homelessness.  More than one in four transgender people have lost a job due to workplace discrimination, leading many to hide their gender or gender transition.

Mrs. Wong-Kalu - Kumu Hina to her many students - proudly identifies as mahuwahine, educates fellow Kanaka Maoli about the cultural role of mahu, and teaches her students tolerance and respect for all.  She is an important leader and role model in the LGBTIQ community and among Kanaka Maoli.  As LGBTIQ workers and allies, we thank her for her leadership and stand in solidarity with her, and all of our transgender, mahuwahine and mahukane brothers and sisters, in calling for justice and inclusiveness and an end to the intolerant bullying exemplified by HIRA and Mr. Montes.

Who can survive on $7.25?

New Year’s Resolution for Hawaii Lawmakers: Raise the Minimum Wage

Over 2.5 million low-paid workers throughout the country started the year right – with a raise. Unfortunately, none of these workers lives in Hawaii.

Thanks to minimum-wage increases scheduled to take effect on New Year’s Day in the 13 states of Arizona, Colorado, Connecticut, Florida, Missouri, Montana, New Jersey, New York, Ohio, Oregon, Rhode Island, Vermont, and Washington, the people who do the hard work of cleaning office buildings, serving food, and providing care for the elderly will receive a modest pay raise.

Four of these states – New Jersey, New York, Connecticut, and Rhode Island – approved minimum wage increases last year, while the remaining nine of the minimum wage increases are the result of these states having adopted a key policy reform known as “indexing,” which calls for automatic increases each year to keep pace with the rising cost of living.

Last spring, Hawaii had the chance to join these 13 states by passing legislation to raise the state’s minimum wage – currently stuck at the federal level of $7.25 per hour, or $15,000 for a full-time year-round worker.

This legislation would have also established automatic annual increases so that the state’s minimum wage would keep pace with the rising cost of living.

I hope that when lawmakers return to Honolulu in January for the new legislative session, they think about the opportunity that our state missed by failing to pass a minimum wage increase last year.

According to the nonpartisan Economic Policy Institute, the 13 minimum wage increases that took effect on Jan. 1 will generate $619 million in new economic growth as low-paid workers spend their increased earnings on the basics. 

Here in Hawaii, the increase to the minimum wage would have added an additional $55 million in consumption this year alone. That’s because every dollar a low-wage worker takes in goes right back out for groceries, gas, and rent – all paid into the local economy as opposed to being siphoned off-island for reinvestment elsewhere.

As stagnant wages and sluggish job growth continue to cloud the post-recession recovery, these minimum wage increases will help protect the purchasing power of low-paid workers’ paychecks, which in turn will boost consumer spending and promote economic growth.

Put simply, Hawaii cannot afford to allow the minimum wage to remain stagnant any longer. According to a report by the National Employment Law Project, 58 percent of all jobs created in the post-recession recovery have been low-wage occupations, and the Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates that six of the 10 occupations with the fastest-projected growth over the next 10 years will be low-wage jobs. Continuing to neglect the minimum wage at the same time as a growing share of workers find themselves relying on low-wage work to make ends meet is a recipe for disaster in Maryland.

Still, those who oppose any increase in the minimum wage will claim that business cannot afford modestly higher wages for the employees, even as the economic evidence makes clear that businesses that pay fair wages ultimately benefit from reduced turnover and higher worker productivity, as their employees are spared from the struggle of balancing two jobs in order to make ends meet.

In fact, the real strain on economic growth in today’s economy stems from the decision made by many national fast food chains and big box retailers to inflate their profits by paying rock-bottom wages, taking money out of local communities and impoverishing the customer base needed to sustain local economic growth.

The purchasing power of Hawaii’s minimum wage actually peaked 40 years ago, and would be worth roughly $10.70 in today’s dollars. Legislative inaction, however, has allowed the real value of the state’s minimum wage to erode as the cost of living continues to rise. 

For Hawaii’s lowest-paid workers – and the countless businesses across the state whose sales are shrinking because too many customers cannot afford basic expenses – raising the minimum wage remains an urgent priority.

For the sake of everyone working at minimum wage, I hope that a raise was on a lot of legislators' resolution lists. 

Jack Temple of the National Employment Law Project contributed to this commentary.

About the author: Drew Astolfi is the state director of Faith Action for Community Equity Hawaii, a grassroots faith-based organization founded in 1996 to address community social issues.

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