Speaker Saiki Must Join Democrats and Stand With, Not Against Workers

Hawaii’s workers have faced the threat of Covid head-on for nearly a year. It’s critical that the legislature, led by Speaker of the House Scott Saiki, gives them the respect and dignity they deserve by raising the minimum wage.

At $10.10 per hour, the current minimum wage leaves full-time workers far short of the $17 per hour that’s needed to afford their basic needs. They must skip meals, work multiple jobs, live in overcrowded housing, or depend on help from others just to survive.

For three straight legislative sessions, 2018-2020, Speaker Scott Saiki and the House of Representatives, have betrayed the Democratic Party’s commitment to a $15+ minimum wage.

Bills doing this haven’t been voted down though. Instead, Speaker Saiki killed all $15+ minimum wage bills in committee, blocking them from a final vote.

In January of 2020, Saiki agreed to a $13 minimum wage by 2024. However, once the pandemic started, he reneged on this plan.

Every other state with scheduled raises continued with their plans though, with 27 states receiving raises this year. That includes 8 that are on their way to at least $15.

Despite cancelling wage increases for workers, the legislature only delayed their own raises by 12 months. All legislators will receive $6,000 raises this year. They’ll earn $68,000 per year, more than three times the $21,000 that full-time minimum wage workers make.

Wage Increases Help our Economy

When the minimum wage rose in Hawaii from $7.25 in 2014 to $10.10 in 2018 it helped boost our economy. Incomes of workers at all levels increased faster here than nationwide. This was a change from the previous four years when local wages grew slower than wages nationally.

Workers could spend their raises here locally, which helped grow Hawaii’s economy faster than the nation’s as well. From 2014 to 2018, the number of small businesses here increased as did their number of employees. Unemployment was also at an all-time low in 2018.

The Democratic Party and President-elect Joe Biden, understand the economic benefits raising the wage has, therefore a $15 national minimum wage remains a top priority for them.

Last November even Florida voters voted themselves a $15 minimum wage by 2026. Surely the Speaker of the House in the most expensive and most Democratic state must do better than a Republican state.

Saiki’s refusal to gradually raise the minimum wage since 2018 has cost these workers more than $12,000 each so far. Further delays will add to their already considerable pain and slow our economy even more.

Passing an increase this year likely won’t take effect until 2022. So if Saiki doesn’t act now, working families will have to wait till 2023 for a possible raise.

Essential Workers Deserve Better

The pandemic has further opened our eyes to an injustice we have ignored for too long. We all rely on the essential contributions of minimum wage workers to survive. It’s absolutely indecent for us to expect them to continue to work for wages that do not allow them to survive.

Ige campaigned on a $15 minimum wage, the Senate passed a $15 minimum wage and most House Representatives publicly support raising the wage. Thus any failure to pass this bill falls squarely on Speaker Saiki’s shoulders.

Saiki must join Democrats and stand with, not against workers. He must bring this bill to the floor for a final vote and not kill it in committee for a fourth straight year.

As Democratic Speaker of the House, Saiki can no longer be the person standing between working families and a livable wage.



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