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Hawai‘i Businesses Speak Out Against Proposed Minimum Wage Increase

March 14, 2019, 3:56 PM HST (Updated March 15, 2019, 11:53 AM)
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The Chamber of Commerce Hawai‘i and Hawai‘i’s business community testified in opposition to a proposed minimum wage increase, HB1191 HD1, at a State Senate hearing on Thurday, March 14, 2019.

“Should this bill pass, it will no doubt harm local businesses, the state economy, job creation and, potentially, the very employees it is trying to help,” the Chamber wrote in opposition to the proposal. “We have heard from many members regarding what would happen to their businesses if the minimum wage were to be increased. Some of our members have said that their businesses would be able to absorb the additional costs of an increase in minimum wage. However, we have heard from other members that an increase could be the final straw for their businesses and that it would make more sense to close shop.”

“I buy local sweet potatoes from Hawai‘i’s farmers. My competitors on the mainland and in Asia pay half of what I do for potatoes and much less than $10.10 an hour for labor,” Jimmy Chan, owner of Hawaiian Chip Company said. “These companies are able to undercut my prices by as much as 50% in stores here in Hawai‘i. Another increase to the minimum wage will likely push my product out of Hawaii’s market, too.”

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“If the minimum wage is increased, I believe we will be forced to pass on our cost increase to our customers just to stay afloat,” Kurt Osaki, president of Kaua‘i Ice Distributors said. “We provide an important product that is used and needed by local consumers and visitors on a daily basis. The increase in cost will create yet another domino effect that will do greater harm than good. I can almost assure you that we may be forced to reduce employee hours or initiate layoffs just to stay afloat.”

The Chamber’s testimony raised concerns with conflating a minimum wage with a living wage. It also argued that raising the minimum wage would not solve Hawaii’s high cost of living issues, considering the high cost of goods, utilities, and other employer mandates such as the Prepaid Health Care Act.

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