Minimum wage bill passes through committee

Published On: Jan 30 2014 03:22:00 PM HST

Minimum wage earners are one step closer to getting a pay increase.

Click here to watch Nana Ohkawa's story.

A Senate bill aimed at bringing that wage up passed the committee on judiciary and labor on Thursday.

The conference room at the State Capitol was packed wall to wall.  Everyone want to weigh in on minimum wage.

Many said people making minimum wage can't even afford basic living costs.

"We do see people at this income level coming to use for assistance with rent," said Trisha Kajimura of Catholic Charities Hawaii.  "First month's deposit on places to live and also emergency utility assistance."

"Many families who work minimum wage jobs aren't only working one job.  Sometimes they work multiple jobs to make ends meet and it's still not enough," said Scott Morishige, executive director of PHOCUSED.

"$7.25 is too low.  As a cost of living rises, the salary doesn't follow," said Sen. Clayton Hee.

Minimum wage has been $7.25 per hour in Hawaii since 2007.  It hasn't changed for seven years.

A Senate bill would increase that amount to $8.20 an hour beginning next year.  It would then increase 95 cents every year until 2017 when it reaches $10.10 per hour.

Some say the hourly wage should just stay the same.

"Small businesses often have fewer than 10 employees, so any change in rates or cost to businesses is felt very severely," said Melissa Pavlicek of the National Federation of Independent Business.

The bill also includes cutting tip credit.  That means restaurant owners don't get to pay workers who receive tips 25 cents less than the minimum wage.  Instead, they would have to pay the full amount.  It's a change Gyotaku restaurant owner Tom Jones doesn't agree with.

"It means the increase goes to the tipped employees, which are the highly compensated employees.  It disadvantages restaurant owners to provide higher wages to the kitchen staff," said Jones.

Field worker picking tomatoes

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