Frequently Asked Questions About a $15 Minimum Wage for Hawaii

How much is Hawaii’s minimum wage now?

Hawaii’s minimum wage is $9.25 as of January 1, 2017. At this rate, a person working full-time takes home less than $20,000 a year. The legislature in 2014 enacted an incremental increase to $10.10 by 2018. However, even $10.10 is not a suitable living wage for a single adult in Hawaii, much less an adult supporting children and others. As low-wage jobs become the new normal, working families are falling further and further behind even as the economy continues to grow.

Why $15 rather than $12 or some other number?

Any less than $15 would not be enough to pay for basic needs such as food, housing, transportation, health care, and to have a little money left over for incidentals and emergencies. According to data from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, the living wage for an adult working full-time in Honolulu is $14.92. 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.

Isn’t $15 an awfully big increase?

The minimum wage has been falling behind the cost of living for more than 35 years. If it had kept up with productivity and inflation, it would be more than $15 by now. The proposed increase in Hawaii will not be overnight it would be implemented over multiple years so that businesses can adjust accordingly to the increase of the minimum wage.

How would this affect small businesses?

Small businesses need customers. A $15 minimum wage would put additional money in the pockets of the people most likely to spend in their communities, and the higher wages mean more productive employees and lower turnover for small businesses.

Would people lose their jobs?

Despite conventional wisdom to the contrary, studies have shown that raising the minimum wage does not increase unemployment rates. That’s because for every business that depends on paying poverty wages, there are others that grow and thrive when working people have more money to spend.

Would prices go up?

Price increases are a built-in part of our economic system because businesses are under pressure to increase profits, and as a result prices go up even when wages don’t. Economist Robert Reich says that a $15 minimum wage is unlikely to result in significantly higher prices because the businesses most affected are in intense competition for customers and would sooner reduce profits than increase prices more than a few cents.

I worked hard to make more than $15. What about me?

Many people believe that low-wage workers are lazy, but nothing could be further from the truth: many work more than full-time hours to pay their bills. The labor market is competitive, and a higher minimum wage drives all wages higher in the same way a low minimum wage drives all wages lower. A $15 minimum wage would give workers in the skilled trades more leverage to demand higher wages and fight back against the anti-worker policies that have made the rich richer and everyone else poorer.

What about all the problems that a $15 minimum wage won’t solve?

There are many serious problems in our world, and we can’t solve them all at once. A $15 minimum wage is a winnable reform that will give Hawaii families a much-needed raise and empower them to participate in a larger movement for economic stability.