Efforts underway to raise Hawaii's minimum wage

Published On: Nov 19 2013 10:53:42 PM HST   Updated On: Nov 20 2013 06:37:12 AM HST

It has been six years since Hawaii's minimum wage has been increased.

On Tuesday, several groups gathered to give lawmakers their two cents, so low-income workers could make much more money.

Click here to watch Paul Drewes' report.

Dozens held signs, and chanted slogans to raise the noise level at the State Capitol, in the hopes lawmakers will raise the state's minimum wage.

"I think this is going to be one of the key issues for the 2014 legislative session. It is really a quality of life issue, trying to give low income families who work not just one minimum wage job, but sometimes three or four," said Scott Morishige with Phocused.

Veronica Teico is one of those workers who racks more than 40 hours a week between two jobs, but she said she ends up with very little leftover after her bills are paid.

"Some families and myself are struggling because right now it is really expensive," said Teico.

"For someone working full-time at minimum wage their take home pay is $1,100 a month, which is the same as the average cost for a one-bedroom apartment in Hawaii," said Morishige.

Which is why the groups, representing unions, elderly and low-income residents, want the minimum wage raised from $7.25 per hour to $9.50.

"That would be a big deal, it is. It would help," said Teico.

At Chinpei Ramen, owner Yoshi Hashigami said an increase of $2.25 per hour for his employees would take a big bite out of business, because he could not afford to pass the increased costs onto customers.

"My business would hurt to cover the raise because the price on the menu would not change," said Hashigami.

Many Hawaii restaurants and small businesses, which would have to bear the higher wage costs, have been struggling to remain profitable.

Some said that may have been the reason a pair of bills aimed at increasing the minimum wage did not pass during the 2013 legislative session.

"Our economy just went through a major recession and some of the businesses hit hardest were restaurants and service industry. Now that the economy is recovering, the timing is right to have an increase in the minimum wage," said Morishige.

Even with the high cost of living, Hawaii is one of 22 states where the minimum wage is $7.25 per hour. In 19 others, workers earn more, with Washington State having the highest rate at $9.19 per hour.


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