Rep. Roy Takumi: Workers Deserve A (Barely) Living Wage - Honolulu Civil Beat

About the Author

Roy Takumi

Roy Takumi represents the 35th district (Pearl City to Manana to Waipio) in the Hawaii House of Representatives.

In the past year, 25 states and the District of Columbia increased their minimum wage. Unfortunately, Hawaii was not one of them.

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Our minimum wage of $10.10 per hour (or $21,000 a year) is the lowest in the nation (when adjusted for cost of living). This should be unacceptable to all of us.

The last minimum wage bill passed the Hawaii Legislature in 2014 and increased wages from $7.50 to $10.10 from 2015 to 2018. Since then many minimum wage bills were introduced but went nowhere.

Hopefully, this year will be different, but don’t hold your breath. As expected, the business community opposes any effort to increase workers’ wages saying that now is not the right time.

This is nothing new. When the economy is going well, the business community testifies that an increase isn’t necessary or needed since businesses pay more to attract workers.

When the economy is not going well, the business community testifies that any increase will lead to layoffs and closures. In other words, there is never a right time. Actually, now more than ever, we should raise the minimum wage.

Opening Legislature 2022. House members stand around their desks before the floor session starts before opening day. January 19, 2022.
There are several proposals before state lawmakers calling for a minimum wage hike. Will this be the year? Cory Lum/Civil Beat/2022

It is especially critical and relevant to do so in the age of Covid-19. Hawaii is a tourist-dependent state with many residents working in low paying jobs in the service industry. When the pandemic forced the state to close to tourists, the impact devastated this job market.

Even without the pandemic, many families in Hawaii are hurting. According to Living Wage Hawaii, $35,000 is needed for a single adult to afford their basic needs; $80,000 is needed for a family of four which means that two working adults must make $19.32 per hour for their family to survive.

In other words, at $15 per hour, making $31,000 a year is a barely livable wage for one person.

Laulau Plate

A well-known Hawaiian food restaurant claimed in 2014 that if the minimum wage went up, its laulau plate would cost $5 more making it unaffordable for people.

What really happened? From 2014 to 2018, the plate went up by $1.30 when the minimum wage went up by $2.85.

Furthermore, from 2011-2014 when the minimum wage remained at $7.70, the plate went up by 70 cents. In other words, prices increased regardless of the minimum wage. And when the minimum wage did increase, the laulau plate didn’t go up by $5.

Another argument is that unemployment will go up since businesses will either lay off workers or close. In January 2015, when the minimum wage went from $7.25 to $7.75, the unemployment rate was 4%. When the next hike went up to $8.50 in January 2016, the unemployment rate was 3.1%.

It then went down to 2.7% as the minimum wage went up to $9.25. And when the last hike to $10.10 went into effect in January 2018, the unemployment rate was 2.3%.

Of course, this doesn’t mean that when the minimum wage goes up, unemployment always goes down, but it does mean that increasing the minimum wage doesn’t always lead to layoffs and increased unemployment.

Most importantly, increasing wages raises the living standards of women, kupuna, Native Hawaiian and Pacific Islanders who disproportionately are in low-wage jobs.

Even if a bill passed this year, it wouldn’t go into effect until January 2023.

Research done by the Economic Policy Institute concludes that at the national level, 27% of the workforce in the US would benefit from an increase in the federal minimum wage. But because they have higher wages, only 18% of white men would benefit compared to 32% of white women (and 39% of Black and Latina women).

The EPI also found that minimum wage hikes would “unambiguously reduce net spending on public assistance, particularly among workers likely to be affected by a federal minimum-wage increase.”

It’s 2022 and four years have gone by with no increase in our minimum wage. Even if a bill passed this year, it wouldn’t go into effect until January 2023. Let’s pass a minimum wage increase this year so our most vulnerable workers get a well-deserved raise.

Editor’s note: The author introduced House Bill 1958, which increases the minimum wage to $17, and House Bill 1959, which would eliminate the tip credit. 

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About the Author

Roy Takumi

Roy Takumi represents the 35th district (Pearl City to Manana to Waipio) in the Hawaii House of Representatives.

Latest Comments (0)

We should stick to our economy in these discussions. How many people in Hawaii are paid the minimum wage? This is never stated. It would be easier to figure out the actual 2022 minimum wage (by looking at what employers need to pay people now to attract workers) and agreeing to slowly raise the $10.10 to that number first (around $12.50).The minimum wage should encourage employers to hire unskilled workers and students - and let them learn and grow. It should not be confused with whatever a living wage is - that discussion is just a waste of time.The author says Tourism Service jobs are low paying. I'll bet he does not even know what jobs are included in our service economy. Does he think the accountants at each hotel are paid lower wages than accountants that work for themselves outside the hotels? What about the carpenters, landscapers, customer service people at the hotels and outside the hotels?Our Democratic party has no understanding of Small Business. Small Business is only mentioned in a few sentences in the party platform - not very impressive. We are a Small Business state. Better to help Small Business thrive and allow young workers to get part time work.

Pukele · 1 year ago

Ridiculous commentary. Plate lunches at Rainbow's were reasonably priced. Now it surpasses $10 per plate lunch. If you get your way they will charge $15+ per plate.As for laulau plates you should cite your source. Now laulau plates are $17+ each. If you get your way they will have to raise their prices to cover it possibly to $20+.

Juana · 1 year ago

Rep. Takumi is spot on.Yesterday, during the House Labor hearing, we heard some concerns from businesses and organizations suggesting a minimum wage increase could hurt our local economy and lead to layoffs and less employment opportunities.But maybe they should have looked at the data and what happened during our last minimum wage increase. The fact is, raising the minimum wage to $10.10 did not harm the economy. Hawaii's unemployment rate actually dropped when the minimum wage increased. July, 2014 Unemployment Rate: 4.2%July, 2015 Unemployment Rate: 3.3%July, 2016 Unemployment Rate: 2.9%July, 2017 Unemployment Rate: 2.1%July, 2018 Unemployment Rate: 2.4%The data is clear. Increasing the minimum wage did not harm the economy or slow economic recovery. We are hearing the same arguments once again, but the data tells the true story.

RobinHood · 1 year ago

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