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Three minimum wage bills fail to pass committee

  • Miles Yoshioka

All but one of the bills in the state Legislature that would raise the minimum hourly wage appear to be dead.

Earlier this month, four bills were introduced that would have increased the minimum wage in Hawaii from the current $10.10 an hour to three different rates. Two bills proposed incremental yearly increases that would eventually end at $17 an hour, while another proposed an increase to $11 an hour beginning next year.

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All three of those bills have failed to move past their first committee, with the only bill showing any sign of life being Senate Bill 676, which would increase the minimum wage to $12 an hour beginning in 2022. That bill passed its second reading in the Senate on Tuesday.

Although he was relieved that the $17 an hour bills are no more, Miles Yoshioka, executive officer for the Hawaii Island Chamber of Commerce, said Thursday that he believes any increase in the minimum wage this year is still too much to ask for business owners.

“Our position is that no increase makes sense for businesses right now,” Yoshioka said. “No matter what, with everyone facing these hardships because of the pandemic, it’s just not the right time.”

Yoshioka warned that, if the law requires a business to increase wages for its minimum-wage employees, it will have to give a corresponding increase to employees who make more than minimum wage or else those workers will be more likely to seek employment elsewhere.

While chambers of commerce for the other islands and other organizations testified against SB 676 last week, the overwhelming majority of testifiers were in favor of the proposal.

In fact, many testifiers — including the Sierra Club of Hawaii, the Hawaii State Democratic Women’s Caucus, the Hawaii State Teachers Association and dozens of individuals — argued that the increase is too little and requested that the bill be amended to allow incremental wage increases until the minimum wage is $17 an hour by 2026.

“It’s way past time to face up to the reality that tens of thousands of workers in our state are reliant on government subsidies, family assistance, and multiple jobs to just make it from paycheck to paycheck,” wrote Big Island resident David Meyer.

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Regardless of the fate of SB 676, Yoshioka said the minimum wage could be increased anyway thanks to a proposal by President Joe Biden to raise it to $15 an hour nationwide, which the HICC also opposes.

Email Michael Brestovansky at mbrestovansky@hawaiitribune-herald.com.

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