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Raising minimum wage is imperative

The Democratic Party is the party of workers.

As chair and vice chair of the Democratic Party of Hawaii, we have been thrilled to see President Joe Biden and national Democrats push for a $15 minimum wage, including all four of Hawaii’s U.S. congresspeople. This policy is necessary to provide all workers fair compensation for a fair day’s work.

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This is why it’s been a top priority for the Democratic Party of Hawaii for years.

Despite resistance from Republican Party leadership, higher minimum wages are no longer a strictly partisan issue: 61% of all Americans support at least a $15 national minimum wage by 2025, including 82% of self-identifying Democrats and 43% of Republicans.

Unfortunately, the federal $15 minimum wage was unable to be included in the recent American Rescue Plan stimulus bill, but that isn’t the end of Hawaii’s chance at higher wages.

State Senate Bill 676 would move Hawaii’s minimum wage to $12 next year. Although it’s not perfect, it helps get us on track toward our end goals.

Workers throughout the state are struggling to make ends meet, put food on the table, pay rent and provide for their families. It’s well past time that they are not only called essential workers, but treated as such with wages that allow them the opportunity to meet their own basic needs.

We’re glad the state Senate has recognized this urgency to support all workers, following their numerous sacrifices during the past year. With SB 676 passing the Senate, it’s now necessary it’s passed in the House.

SB 676 is now in the hands of the Democratic leaders of the House and the chairs of the Labor and Tourism Committee and the Finance Committee, which will hear the bill. They will determine its fate, and we’re hopeful they will finally pass SB 676 to give workers the raises they deserve.

Not only will raising the wage help workers, it will also help money to circulate within our economy, promoting our state’s economic health.

Data from Hawaii and throughout the nation shows that increases in the minimum wage help push wages higher for all workers, not just those making near the minimum. Since 70% of our economy is consumer spending, these increased wages that are then spent at businesses, help the businesses grow faster than when the minimum wage is flat.

As we are now closer to the end of the pandemic, and with vaccinations planned to be widely available by the summer, it’s necessary we begin planning for a post-pandemic future. This future must include raises workers were set to receive before the pandemic struck.

With legislators receiving $6,000 raises this year, it seems only fair to make sure workers are getting raises, too.

The Democratic Party is a place for people and politicians to organize around good ideas to help push our state forward. The data has been clear for a while now that raising the minimum wage is a great idea that will help workers, businesses and our economy as a whole.

It’s high time for our Democratic legislators to move forward with a minimum wage increase so our Democratic Party values can be put into action.

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Workers now more than ever need the state House to join the Senate in supporting their need for higher wages and pass SB 676.

Tyler Dos Santos-Tam is chair of the Democratic Party of Hawaii. Colleen Kelly is vice chair.

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