The Hawaii state Legislature convenes its 2017 session on Wednesday, Jan. 18. Among the bills that will hopefully survive this term is a one from Maui Rep. Kaniela Ing, D–South Maui. That bill increases Hawaii’s minimum wage to $15/hour by 2019 and $22/hour by 2022 (the state’s current minimum wage is $9.25/hour and is supposed to rise to $10.10/hour next year).
“Working families are struggling, so we as legislators have a moral obligation to act,” Ing said in a Jan. 10 news release. “The evidence shows that raising the minimum wage to at least $15 an hour is the single most impactful policy for Hawaii’s most vulnerable.”
According to the bill, the minimum wage will rise in the following manner: to $12.50/hour in 2018, $15/hour in 2019, $19/hour in 2020, $21/hour in 2021 and finally $22/hour in 2022. This is because of the state’s higher requirements for a living wage.
“According to data from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, the living wage for an adult working full-time in Honolulu is $14.92,” states the bill. “The living wage for that same adult nearly doubles with the addition of a child. Due to the large disparity between the current minimum wage and a living wage, many individuals work two or more jobs to maintain a basic standard of living for themselves and their families.”
But more importantly, in my opinion, Ing’s bill eliminates the state’s wage exemption for tipped employees. Finally–assuming this bill passes, of course–there will just one be minimum wage for all employees, regardless of whether they receive tips.
The practice of restaurants paying their employees less because they receive tips is a national disgrace–especially given that most restaurant employees around the country earn just the federal minimum wage, which is pathetically low.
“Most people in the industry get paid the federal tipped minimum wage, which is $2.13 an hour,” Saru Jayaraman, the director of the Food Labor Research Center at UC Berkeley, told me last year. “That means they get a paycheck that says, ‘This is not a paycheck,’ because all their wages went to taxes. It’s crazy. The two-tiered wage system is also really hard to enforce. It’s the most absurd thing to enforce. It’s ridiculous!”
Ing’s bill also includes a provision that “Each county shall have the power to establish wages for employees employed within the county at rates that are higher than those” listed in the bill.
Here’s a PDF of the minimum wage bill: Ing Living wage bill
Photo of Rep. Ing courtesy Hawaii state Legislature