Despite opposition from businesses, bill to hike minimum wage to $18 moves forward

While many workers and advocates say it’s about time the minimum wage was increased, some business owners say it's too soon
Published: Jan. 25, 2022 at 10:25 PM HST|Updated: Jan. 26, 2022 at 12:17 PM HST
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HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - While many workers and advocates say it’s about time lawmakers prioritize increasing the minimum wage, some business owners say it’s too soon.

Hawaii’s minimum wage has been stuck at $10.10 for four years.

If a bill moving through the state Legislature is passed, the minimum wage would increase to $12 in October, $15 in 2024, and finally $18 in 2026.

“We felt that $3 increments at a time is just a little bit steep for the businesses to absorb,” said Victor Lim, legislative lead for the Hawaii Restaurant Association.

But Gavin Thornton, executive director of Hawaii Appleseed Center for Law and Economic Justice, said it’s time to boost the minimum wage.

“So there’s never going to be a convenient time to increase the minimum wage for everybody,” he said. “Let’s do it, now is the time.”

A recent state report found that for an Oahu resident to afford paying for the basics like housing, food and transportation, they need to make an hourly wage of about $18.63.

“There are 20 other states that have higher minimum wages than we do,” Thornton said. “Missouri’s minimum wage was increased this year to $11.15. Missouri has a cost of living that’s roughly half of ours so, you know, as a state, we’re really far behind where other folks are at.”

According to a report by the National Low Income Housing Coalition, a minimum wage worker in Hawaii would have to work 114 hours just to afford an apartment.

Alex Nalbandanian is a sophomore at the University of Hawaii studying business management. He works two jobs ― at GNC and Door Dash.

Nalbandanian said he uses that money toward paying for school and food.

“When you work 30-plus hours a week, and it’s hard enough,” said Nalbandanian.

“So, you know, when you’re thinking about other people, or, you know, just living in Hawaii, groceries, expenses really add up.”

In addition, he said he must rely on his family to help pay for his apartment.

“I personally believe that minimum wage would only help. It would only incentivize people to work more and provide better work as well,” Nalbandanian said. “Because if people are making more, they’ll want to work harder and provide a better service in general.”

But the Hawaii Restaurant Association said 88% of restaurants nationwide saw their businesses decline since the beginning of the Omicron surge.

“We just need some time, some breathing space, that’s all we’re asking for,” Lim said. “We’re not against raising wage, we just want smaller increments spread out over a longer period of time.”

Another state Senate hearing on minimum wage is scheduled for Thursday.

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