Would you stoop to pick up a dime?

Hawaii’s House of Representatives seems unwilling to do so — at least when it comes to the proposed minimum wage currently under debate at the legislature.

Negotiations between the House and Senate continue to drag, and the House seems unwilling to budge on just a dime. Instead of going along with the national movement for $10.10, we’ve fallen a dime short, with the current proposals stuck at $10.00.

So what’s a dime worth to a minimum wage worker? More than you might think. A full-time minimum wage worker would see $208 over the course of a year. That’s close to a month’s worth of groceries for one person: the average SNAP (food stamps) benefits for an individual in Hawaii are $214. For $208, you could buy three bus passes. Or four tanks of gas. That’s three months of a worker commuting to their job. Or it can cover three month’s of the average electricity bill.

That dime matters not just to Hawaii’s workers, but workers around the nation. President Obama has repeatedly called for a national minimum wage of $10.10. Connecticut and Maryland heeded this call, and their legislatures just raised their minimum wages to $10.10. Our state has the opportunity to join these states in leading the way for the entire country. Hawaii’s minimum wage workers are not second class, and we shouldn’t treat them like they are.

Given that the U.S. Congress is completely stalled, Hawaii can help move the dial forward for workers everywhere. The implications of falling a dime short will ripple well beyond Hawaii. We can’t let politics get in the way of helping our struggling workers make ends meet. About 59,000 workers will be affected by an increase in the minimum wage. That means 59,000 workers will be able to put one more month of food on the table, or reliably make it to work for another three months. And Hawaii will push the nation one state further toward a fair wage.

Our workers face the highest cost of living in the nation, but have been stuck at the lowest minimum wage for eight years. When you step back from the frustration and the back and forth that always characterizes the end of the legislative session and think about the people struggling hardest to make ends meet, adding 10 cents, makes sense. Here’s hoping that the House leadership can agree.

About the author: Jenny Lee is the staff attorney for the Appleseed Center for Law and Economic Justice.


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