Here in Hawaii we proudly lead the nation in racial and gender diversity in government and the workplace. I am proud of that.

Many of us firmly stand against the hatred and violence directed against the Asian American and Pacific Islander community. Hawaii has also joined the rest of the nation in standing up to anti-Asian hate.

Unfortunately, Hawaii lags far behind in income equality. With the highest cost of living in the U.S., no one can live here on a mere $10.10 an hour.

All members of the Hawaii Legislature will likely be receiving a $6,000 raise this July and another $6,000 come next July. A tidy sum for only part-time work!

Many Kanaka Maoli (Native Hawaiians), other Polynesians like Samoans and Tongans, Pacific Islanders like Marshallese and many Filipinos are on the bottom of the modern Hawaii economy.

These workers do the most physically demanding work of all Hawaii’s laborers. For starters, all workers need living wages of at least $15 to $17 an hour.

House Speaker Scott Saiki during floor session held at the Capitol during the COVID-19 pandemic. March 9, 2021.
House leaders including Speaker Scott Saiki are not advancing bills to increase the minimum wage and to give a reprieve to unemployed workers. Cory Lum/Civil Beat

Our unemployed need a temporary reprieve from paying the year 2020 5% state income tax. Because of the economic disruption caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, more than 580,000 Hawaii workers filed for unemployment insurance last year.

Senate Bill 614 would set a reasonable time period — from March 1, 2020, to Dec. 31, 2020 — to excuse this tax. Fifteen states have already done this.

All workers need living wages of at least $15 to $17 an hour.

By denying more needed hearings on the unemployment insurance tax bill SB 614 and no hearings on the minimum wage bill Senate Bill 676 the state House of Representatives — led by Speaker Scott Saiki along with Reps. Sylvia Luke and Richard Onishi — has arrogantly smashed this simple dream workers have for some economic justice.

Luke is the House Finance Committee Chair while Onishi heads the Labor and Tourism Committee. These autocrats have purposely drowned out the voices of workers. The state Legislature is supposed to work for all of Hawaii’s people, not just the Chamber of Commerce.

These “misleaders” should be deeply ashamed of their disrespect to Hawaii’s working families. Without our collective labor, taxes and votes they are nothing. Every place has its own political nuances. Historically in Hawaii, racial and class inequality go hand in hand.

Maybe Saiki, Luke and Onishi can return their future undeserved salary increases by sending it back to our state coffers, since they are so concerned about the state budget.

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