Political Radar

As is

February 11th, 2014

The state House Labor Committee advanced a bill on Tuesday that would increase the minimum wage to $9.50 an hour by January 2017. The wage would be pegged to the Consumer Price Index after September 2017. A tip credit would be eliminated.

The bill, which was passed unamended, now goes to the state House Finance Committee.

The Senate Judiciary and Labor Committee moved a bill in late January that would take the minimum wage to $10.10 an hour by January 2017. The legislation would also tie the wage to the Consumer Price Index and eliminate the tip credit.

The Senate version is before the Senate Ways and Means Committee.

The state's $7.25 an hour minimum wage has not been increased since 2007 and has become a priority for the Democratic Party. Many labor and social service advocates are closely watching the political maneuvers this session after negotiations over a minimum wage increase collapsed last session over the tip credit.

Sen. David Ige, the chairman of the Senate Ways and Means Committee, who is challenging Gov. Neil Abercrombie in the Democratic primary, issued a statement on Tuesday pledging to work with the House to ensure that a minimum wage increase is approved this session.

“We are committed to working with our counterparts in the House and the leadership of both chambers to ensure that we pass a minimum wage bill this legislative session," Ige said. "Currently, there is a bill still in conference that has carried over from the 2013 legislative session as well as new bills that have been introduced this year. I support increasing the minimum wage, and passing a bill as soon as possible this session. We have Senate Bill 331 in conference committee and would be able to take action immediately once we have agreement on the bill.”

Some observers interpreted Ige's statement to mean that he would prefer to take up the bill that stalled in conference committee last session than the bill that moved out of the Senate Judiciary and Labor Committee in January.

An aide to Ige insisted, however, that the senator was simply outlining the options available to lawmakers.

Rep. Mark Nakashima, the chairman of the House Labor Committee, said there had been talk near the opening of session about reviving the bill from conference committee. But he said that both the House and Senate now have new bills to consider.

Drew Astolfi, the executive director of FACE, an advocacy group, considered Ige's statement an "end run" around having to hear the new bills in his committee.

"Today the House Labor Committee followed the Senate Labor committee in crafting new dynamic legislation raising Hawaii's stagnant minimum wage for all workers -- including restaurant workers," he said in a statement. "While we at FACE welcome David Ige's new found support for the minimum wage we are very concerned that engaging in backroom negotiation around last year's bills will miss the chance to give this year's legislation a fair and public hearing in front of the senator's important Ways and Means Committee."

Astolfi and other advocates are planning a rally on Wednesday afternoon at the state Capitol "to ensure that Hawaii's most struggling families get a hearing."

14 Responses to “As is”

  1. Bart Dame:

    Last year, Senate President Donna Kim and WAM chair David Ige refused to support a hike in the minimum wage unless tipped restaurant workers were excluded from the wage hike. They continue to still be the biggest obstacle. Governor Abercrombie's supporters are having no problem pinning the blame on Ige and it has caused some of his supporters to urge him to say something to dispel that perception.

    There are 3 issues in dispute as part of the minimum wage hike:

    1) What should the new minimum wage be?
    2) How much less than the minimum wage should restaurants be able to pay tipped employees? (This is the "tip credit")
    3) should the state adopt a formula for future automatic adjustments of the minimum wage to remain steady with the cost of living?

    Ige's press release was his opportunity to reassure voters he has a good position on the minimum wage, but he is obviously unable, or unwilling, to take a clear, public stand. I am looking for a leader willing to take a stand and willing to defend their position. Not someone dodging and weaving. Take a stand David. Then argue for it. Like him or not, we know where Abercrombie stands on the minimum wage. Where do you stand?

  2. Guy:

    Bart, you nailed it. The WAM chair just came off as opportunistic. Unfortunately, a fair weather friend of the workers, that one.

  3. gale:

    Reading Drew Astolfi's statements, I have to wonder whether he is a stalking horse for Neil Abercrombie, or whether his goal is passing a minimum wage hike. What I take from the article is that Sen. Ige is offering to move as soon as possible on passing the Minimum Wage hike using a vehicle that has already been thru the legislative process, versus taking a chance on going thru the legislative process all over again.

    From the blog post, it sounds like Astolfi is more interested in chest beating, and beating David Ige, than he is in getting results for the working people of Hawaii. How sad!

  4. Gerald de Heer:

    Not so fast. Raising the minimum wage is a mixed bag. True, there is credible research emerging that a significant increase in the minimum wage creates a net positive impact on the economy. However, Sen Kim's and Sen Ige's concerns are more than legitimate, they are responsible. This legislation will also affect business operations and could negatively affect tipped workers. Any politician can be for wage increases. Real leadership means asking important, not so popular questions. Increasing the minimum wage does increase inflationary pressures. Figuring a course of right action is difficult. If Abercrombie minions have opted to take the easy route of demagoguery they may score cheap political points. This year, however. is different. Voters will see through this. The question they will ask is who can most responsibly handle the serious challenges we face? Showmanship versus Leadership?

  5. Bart Dame:

    Gerry, I think you know it is absurd to dismiss my objections as coming from a "minion" of Abercrombie or anyone else. So my questions remain. What is David's position? He doesn't say and you don't say, beyond, "It's complicated."

    So let's dissect the complications rather than hide behind them. It is David's unstated position which "could negatively affect tipped workers." Last year, he and Donna insisted there would be no hike in the minimum wage unless tipped employees were excluded from the hike. That was the meaning of their proposal to increase the "tip credit" to an amount equal to the hike in the MW. I am hearing through the grapevine that David and Donna, both of the candidates for office and eager to not be seen as enemies of low-income workers, are starting to budge. So stop hiding already. He issued a platitudinous press release, why not a frank one explaining his position? Sorry, I have been very open to an Ige candidacy, but that window is closing.

    The minimum wage you and I earned when we first entered the work force has an adjusted value of about $10.77 today. Yet our "Democratic" legislators have kept it suppressed to $7.25, with David and Donna being directly responsible for stalling passage last year.

    The most sensible policy is to tie future hikes in the minimum wage to changes in the cost of living, with small, predictable, annual adjustments. But business interests prefer to delay any such adjustments for as many years as they can, reaping the benefits of the decline in real wages paid to employees. This has gone on for over 7 years THIS time. From 1993 to 2002, the legislature also kept the minimum wage frozen to the employers' benefit and the workers' detriment. But calling for the minimum wage to be restored to its earlier purchasing power is "demagogic"? If emotional appeals to the "demos" are "demagogic," what is the word for emotional defenses of the interests of employers? Surprise, only arguments for the people are deserving of a disparaging word.

    David Ige has a chance to demonstrate both his "leadership" and his grasp of the "complexities" involved in coming up with a fair minimum wage hike. He missed his opportunity yesterday, hiding behind a fog of "complexities" and platitudes instead. There IS widespread frustration with Governor Abercrombie which has created the possibility of a serious challenge against him. David has to convince enough of us he is a favorable alternative. He is failing at that. Big time.

  6. Manoa Kahuna:

    It's wrong to delay any wage increase for three years. President Obama made $10.10 the minimum wage for all new federal contractors effective now.

    What's wrong with Senate President Donna Kim and WAM chair David Ige?

  7. ohiaforest3400:

    Bart, you know as well as anybody that it's not just what David Ige wants, it's what he can get the Senate to pass. He is speaking as one of 25 senators and 76 legislators overall. It's easy to be a one man band like the Governor; he doesn't pass bills, Ige does. The Governor can act like a candidate for you; Ige can't.

  8. Bart Dame:


    Thanks for recognizing I have some understanding of the legislative process. It is not my perception that David (and Donna) are simply mirroring the views of the Senate with their notso hidden position, but are the locus, the leadership, within the Senate for that view. Yes, he is embedded within a web of relationships the Governor is free from, but if he were pushing to restore the lost purchasing power of the most lowly paid workers rather than insisting on using this occasion to help the restaurant owners, it would send a signal to me, and a lot of others, that he is worth electing as Governor.

    I cannot accept the "explanation" that he is acting on behalf of the entire Senate, rather than acting on behalf of Minimum wage workers have lost 20% of their purchasing power over the past 7 years. Or about a THIRD of that income in real, adjusted terms, since 1968. That is not abstract. It is VERY real to me. But it does NOT appear to be real to David. Either as a senator or as a candidate for Governor. or about 30% in real terms since 1980. If David cannot find a way to function within the Senate as an advocate for the working poor MORE than as a bargaining agent for the restaurant owners, he is going to have a real difficult time running in a Democratic primary and take advantage of the also very REAL frustration a lot of voters have with the Governor.

    I can't speak for Drew Astolfi, but I have not (yet) written off David Ige. But he is caught on the horns of a dilemma and, unless he figures a way off those horns, his prospects will melt away rather quickly. His desire to "resolve this, quickly, bring me no confidence, if it merely means he wants to get his bad position off the public stage and hope people will forget his role by the time the election comes around.

    David is free to ignore my individual appeal. But I assure him I am voicing what a lot of potential supporters are feeling. My remarks here should be seen as a challenge to him, not an attack. And delivered on behalf of the two or three people who care about my opinion on such matters.

  9. Gerald de Heer:

    Bart you wrote: "Governor Abercrombie's supporters are having no problem pinning the blame on Ige and it has caused some of his supporters to urge him to say something to dispel that perception." No problem pinning blame? Sounds like demogoguery to me (leftists are capable of it too). Abercrombie minions to voters: "You don't have enough income, it's Ige's fault, our guy wants you to have more." More or less, that's the play. It's easy to promise more money; a lot harder to deliver improved rates of net income.

  10. Especially Incognito:

    I read somewhere that Governor Abercrombie wanted to raise the minimum wage to 8.75 cents an hour for full time and full Health Insurance.. Lousy or good service the consumer bill stays the same. Example: 8.00 for meal including a tip.
    Part-timers may also be paid 8.75 an hour but with no health benefits.
    Most part-timers are students or children still under parents care. Full time makes one that is not a student and not under parents care. 40 work hour week. Fill in busy hours with part-timers.

    I agree with this only if non-union company provides the increase in minimum wage with full Health Care Insurance as part of the deal. Workers in unions are not part of a minimun wage since union reps provide a wage standard for members. Companies only care about profit and not about employees health. If employee is sick, they can always get a healthier but lazier worker.

    Illegal immigrants should be put on a seperate pay scale. Become legal first to reap the rewards of being an American citizen.

  11. Especially Incognito:

    With the increase in minimum wage so will the price of consumer goods go up. Less profit for companies and the 1% will complain that this is unfair. Seems unions are just a bunch of leaches and leave when there is no more blood to feed on.

  12. Bart Dame:

    Gerry, David is receiving the blame because he deserves the blame. No demagoguery need be employed. Not sure if your sympathy is for David or for the business owners, but it is NOT difficult to raise the net income for low income workers. Raising the minimum wage will do that quite readily. Will it cause some distress to business owners operating on the margins who have become accustomed to paying wages which in real terms cost them less each passing year? Undoubtedly. Will the loss of jobs due to the closure of such businesses be offset by new jobs created by the surge in demand from those whose wages have been boosted? Undoubtedly, and the studies are there to support that claim.

    While David is refusing to meet with advocates for an increased minimum wage, preferring to communicate through vaguely worded press releases, we can judge him by the bill he and Donna Kim introduced which would limit the wage hike to $9.25 by 2017 and increases the tip credit an undisclosed amount. That $9.25 would be about $2.70 per hour less than the adjusted value of the minimum wage I first earned, and perhaps you, back when we were teenagers. Our legislators, including Kim and Ige, have promoted economic policies which have contributed to the declining income of not just the lowest wage workers, but for the majority of Americans. The changes in the economy are partly the result of forces difficult to control. But there have also been conscious decisions. This is one opportunity david, and the others, have an opportunity to raise the living standards of the most impoverished workers. They deserve to be judged by what they do, or fail to do.

    BTW, if you want to see me criticizing Abercrombie as harshly as I am now doing to David, feel free to review my remarks on the PLDC, the state's effort to pre-empt county authority of agricultural practices which may impact the health and safety of their residents. Neil's threat to "Roll Over" the AARP, etc.. I am an equal opportunity critic. I call them as I see them. And, in this case, avid and Donna have teamed up to lead the resistance to a long overdue minimum wage hike. And, for a change, Neil is on the right side.

  13. Especially Incognito:

    A comment is still two cents, even with inflation.

  14. (Jesse)James:

    Manoa Kahuna....True. But, remember, all current contracts and any renewal or extension of those contracts are exempt. The raise doesn't affect contracts entered into before Nov. 1, 2015. And according to GAO and CBO, over 85% of those working on fed contracts are already paid more than $10.10 an hour so the amount of those affected by the increase is fairly small.

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