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Friday deadline looms for Hawaii lawmakers to raise minimum wage

A bill to raise Hawaii’s minimum wage is facing an important deadline this Friday.
Published: Apr. 27, 2022 at 6:27 PM HST|Updated: Apr. 27, 2022 at 7:22 PM HST
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HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - A bill to raise Hawaii’s minimum wage is facing an important deadline this Friday.

Supporters rallied in events across the islands to urge lawmakers to agree on a final version by Friday. If they do not agree on terms, the measure will be killed. The sticking point has been how much the raises will be and how fast they will be implemented.

The last minimum wage increase was four years ago to its current rate at $10.10 an hour.

For many working class families, that’s not enough to make ends meet, especially with the higher cost of food and housing.

“When you pay people higher wages, they put it back into the economy, so what I would say to business owners is don’t panic. People are already paying $15 an hour, some businesses are already paying $17, and it hasn’t hurt their business,” said Christy MacPherson of Hawaii Appleseed Center for Law and Economic Justice, which organized the rally.

If passed, employers would need to pay workers at least $12 an hour by October. In 2024, it would be raised to $15, and then $18 by 2026.

But small business owners argue the raises are too much too fast -- especially when they’re trying to recover from the pandemic.

“Businesses are suffering from the same problems as everyone else, the cost of doing business, just like the cost of living is really high,” said Jimmy Chan, owner of Hawaiian Chip Company.

Business organizations suggest a more gradual approach -- a raise to $11 in January and then bumping it by a dollar each year.

“The minimum wage really is reserved for people who are new to the workforce, with no experience, need a lot of training, or need a lot of supervision,” Chan said.

Chan worries about the long-term effects and how Hawaii’s local businesses will absorb the costs.

“We’re probably gonna have to start eliminating positions in terms of, you know, entry level, and you know, what we’ll be able to, because the training alone, you know, to hire somebody, at even the $10 an hour, and have them show up for two days of work, and the time spent by managers training them, and whatnot, that’s, that’s a huge burden to the company,” Chan said. “Companies will start to have to look to automate. I’ve see I see other companies heading in that direction, or even outsource stuff, like manufacturing.”

Regardless of what happens with the bill, both sides agree more needs to be done to increase affordability for all Hawaii residents.

“We really need to strengthen our economy overall, and provide better opportunities for people to be able to work into the middle class,” Chan said.

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