Minimum Wage

The federal minimum wage was established in 1938, as part of the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA), to ensure that all work would be fairly rewarded and that regular employment would provide a decent quality of life. Congress makes periodic amendments to the FLSA to increase the federal minimum wage; however, since the 1960s, Congress has adjusted the federal minimum wage infrequently, enacting raises that have never been adequate to undo the erosion in the minimum wage’s value caused by inflation. This decline in purchasing power means low-wage workers have to work longer hours just to achieve the standard of living that was considered the bare minimum almost half a century ago. The decline in the value of the minimum wage has contributed to wage stagnation, and is directly responsible for widening inequality between low- and middle-wage workers.

In light of Congressional inaction, many states, cities, and counties have enacted their own higher minimum wages, with EARN groups providing the key research and analysis evaluating proposed minimum wage increases. In doing so, they are taking steps to help workers afford their basic needs, bring them closer to the middle class, and ensure that even the lowest-paid workers in their jurisdictions will benefit from broader improvements in wages and productivity.


Senate Ways & Means chair blocks a bill to raise minimum wage to $15 an hour

A Hawaii state senator is blocking a bill that would increase Hawaii’s minimum wage after a series of pay hikes that was enacted in 2014 came to an end this year.

As of Jan. 1, the state minimum wage stands at $10.10.

Arianna Espinoza says with that rate, she’s barely getting by working at a retail store in Ala Moana full time, while also attending college full-time.

“Not only am I paying for my own rent, I’m paying my own insurance,” the 20 year old said.

proposed bill would bump up the minimum wage to $12.25 per hour in 2019, then to $15 per hour in 2020, but the chair of the Senate Ways and Means committee is refusing to give it a hearing without more research.

Gradually raise minimum wage

In January 2015, Hawaii’s minimum wage increased by 50 cents in the first of four annual increases that have lifted the floor on hourly pay here to the current rate, $10.10. State lawmakers are now weighing whether it should be bumped up again — but there’s more cause for caution today than there was in the minimum-wage debate four years ago.

Senate Bill 2291 would raise the wage to $12.25 next January, and to $15 in 2020.

Supporters of the push toward the $15-mark (roughly $30,000 annually for a full-time employee) assert that bigger paychecks could help workers make financial ends meet and boost the economy by giving some consumers more money to spend.

Wages for American workers are ticking upward, but the US remains one of the world’s most inequitable nations

From PRI:

Last week it was reported that average hourly wages of American workers grew 2.9 percent over the past 12 months. It’s a good sign, but American workers still have a lot of catching up to do and income inequality and wage stagnation remain major concerns…Yes, national wages inched up last year. But consider this statistic from Michelle Webster with the Colorado Center on Law & Policy: “In 2016, median earnings for workers in the state were 2 percent less than what they earned in 2000″ when adjusted for inflation.

Bill would raise minimum hourly wage to $15

Hawaii’s hourly minimum wage would increase over two years to $15 by 2020 under a proposal advanced Tuesday by the Senate Labor Committee.

Senate Bill 2291 would raise the state’s minimum wage from $10.10 an hour to $12.25 per hour in 2019, and to $15 per hour the following year — a 48 percent increase overall. The rate increased to its current level on Jan. 1, the final of four annual increases that began in 2015.

Hawaii is one of 13 states with a minimum wage of $10 an hour or higher. An estimated 4.6 percent of hourly workers in the state, or about 30,000 employees, are paid the minimum wage, according to Bureau of Labor Statistics data.

The proposal was widely supported by labor organizations and individuals who said Hawaii’s high cost of living quickly eats up wages here, but was strongly opposed by employers who contend costs are too high.

The Hawaii Appleseed Center for Law & Economic Justice testified that at $10.10 per hour a person working full time with no days off earns $21,000 a year in gross income. “With the highest cost of living in the nation, mainly caused by sharp increases in the cost of housing, $10.10 is not a living wage for a single adult in Hawaii, much less adults supporting children and others,” the center said.