Hawai'i Deserves a Raise!The Hawai'i Legislature continues to debate increasing Hawai'i's minimum wage from the current $7.25/hour. While it looks like we will see an increase this session - thanks to the active support of many groups and individuals, including P@WHI members! - there are still important issues to be worked out by the State House and Senate for the final deal. The Senate's bill (SB331) still includes a higher amount - $9.00 an hour, reduced from the originally proposed $9.25 - but includes an undetermined (blank) amount for the so-called "tip credit" (the amount - currently 25 cents - below minimum wage that employers can pay tipped workers). Since the tips don't involve the employer - they are based on quality of service - employers shouldn't get to take that money back from the worker in the form of a lower wage. There are reports that back room discussions have considered raising the tip credit to as much as a dollar!
Please email or call House Speaker Joe Souki and ask him to accept the original $9.25 amount without increasing the tip credit, and Senate President Donna Mercado Kim to express your support for the Senate bill:
Rep. Souki: email@example.com 586-6100
Sen. Kim: senkim@Capitol.hawaii.gov 587-7200
For more information on the issue, here is an op-ed from today's Star-Advertiser by Rev. Bob Nakata (Faith Action for Community Equity)
Raising minimum wage is economically and morally correct
By Bob Nakata
Honolulu Star-Advertiser, Apr 10, 2013
It's past time to shoulder the burden of a serious increase to the minimum wage. It has been more than six years since Hawaii increased its minimum wage — and workers in this highest cost-of-living state are living from hand to mouth. The truth is, things have been hard for a big part of the local population for a long time.
Many work two jobs, and even then it's hard to make ends meet. The growing crowd of homeless people, the steady pace of foreclosures and the crushing scarcity of time for family are all stations on a spectrum of economic insecurity that has been hanging over Hawaii for almost a decade.
What makes this particularly hard to take right now is the expanding economy that is all around us — the stock market is soaring, tourism is at the highest levels ever and house prices are rising rapidly.
At the lower end of the wage ladder things are hard and getting harder. More than 70,000 workers in Hawaii would see a raise if the minimum wage were increased to $9.25 per hour. More than 88 percent of these workers are adults over age 20, and a substantial share are struggling to support children at home.
For many people the minimum wage is at their second job — and sometimes even their third. The wage is low compared to its buying power when I was a young man in Hawaii. Then, the minimum equaled more than $10.60 per hour in today's dollars, but thanks to decades of inaction, the minimum wage today has lost much of its purchasing power as the cost of living has continued to rise.
Even the boldest proposals being considered at the Legislature today do not fully restore the lost value of the minimum wage. The House isn't even sure it wants to meet President Barack Obama's modest $9-an-hour proposal; it seems wedded to $8.75.
It's certainly true that the increase needs to be phased in over time, perhaps 18 months to two years to give small businesses time to adjust. But there is an urgency to this increase that does not appear to have reached every nook and cranny in the state Capitol yet. Our people need a fairer wage and they need it right away.
As the discussion continues, I have grave concerns about increasing the so-called tip credit as a part of this legislation. Tip credits allow businesses to pay workers less based on the assumption that the employees will make tips. Yet tips are an income stream that does not involve the employer — they are between the customer and the server, and are based on the quality of the service. It seems remarkably unfair to insert the employers into this dynamic by exempting them from wage laws.
Increasing the tip credit essentially allows the employer to reach into the pocket of the server and take some of their tips. Even worse, tipping does not occur across the board — in the visitor industry, a large percentage of tourists are from countries that do not tip, so hotel workers cannot rely on tips in the way that workers who serve local customers do.
The bottom line is our people are struggling to get by, while the economy is growing. That's not good for individual families, but it is also bad for our island culture because it erodes the bonds of ohana and community.
Government can't solve everything but it has an important role to play — and adjusting the minimum wage is the moral responsibility of the state legislature. Let us all pray for the courage and discernment for our elected leaders as the season of horse-trading has begun.
There's also an online campaign to let key legislators know that we want a strong minimum wage bill passed. It says:
Raise Hawai'i's minimum wage to $ 9.25 an hour! Please.
We have not raised the minimum wage in Hawaii in seven years. While our cost of living is higher than almost any other state, our minimum wage is behind 19 other states. Our people have a hard time getting by and most work two jobs. Raising the wage floor will help a lot of families do a little better.
In addition to the wage itself there are two other important issues addressed by this bill:
We are concerned with talk about not fully including tipped workers in this increase. The so called "tip credit" is unfair to restaurant workers who make up a big portion of Hawaii's work force.
Second we'd like to make sure the wage keeps pace with inflation in the future and we want to include an automatic increase tagged to inflation.
Sign on to this important campaign here!
Thank you for standing with low-wage workers!