Editor’s note: The following guest post was authored by Hawaii State Sen. Clayton Hee. Join the conversation about this issue on Twitter using #RaiseTheWage.
I grew up thinking meat came from a can, not a cow. My family ate canned sausage, canned corned beef and canned SPAM, because that’s all we could afford. That’s what we did to make ends meet.
But with the highest cost of living in the United States, most people in Hawaii find it difficult to do just that − especially those earning the minimum wage. For them, as with people everywhere, every dime counts. That’s why in Hawaii we just raised our minimum wage to $10.10 an hour.
For the last 7 years, the minimum wage in Hawaii has stayed put at $7.25 while monthly essentials like rent, groceries and other costs have steadily risen. We’ve been doing a disservice to our workers by keeping the minimum wage so low for so long: In fact, 40 percent of minimum wage workers in Hawaii are homeless, mostly because their income isn’t enough to live on.
By raising the minimum wage to $10.10, Hawaii wage earners are given an opportunity to step up with more money in their pocket to support themselves. At the end of the day, that’s what raising the minimum wage is about: giving people a chance to make a better life for themselves and their families.
I’m proud of my home state for doing what’s right for workers and what’s good for businesses, but the fight to raise the wage shouldn’t end with Hawaii. Twenty-two states and the District of Columbia now have a higher minimum wage than the federal level, and Congress should act to give ALL Americans across our country a shot at success by raising the federal minimum wage to $10.10.