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Raise Up Hawai‘i demand higher minimum wage

LIHU‘E — Demonstrators called for an increase of the state minimum wage Wednesday afternoon, on the corner of Kuhio Highway and Nawiliwili Road near the Kukui Grove Center.

More than a dozen residents, including Kaua‘i County Councilmember Felicia Cowden, had gathered by 3:30 p.m., to wave signs reading “Raise Up Hawai‘i” at passing traffic.

“People are having a hard time making a living. We can’t live on $10.10 an hour,” said Raymond Catania, referring to the state’s current minimum wage. “Hawai‘i has one of the highest costs of living in the United States, and we need more money in order to pay rent and buy food to take care of our kids.”

The 71-year-old Catania described himself as a lifelong labor rights advocate. He represented two organizations Wednesday, including Hawai‘i Workers Center and Raise Up Hawai‘i, the second of which claims any wage less than $17 is not enough to pay for necessities like food, housing, transportation and health care.

Raise Up Hawai‘i takes its $17 figure from the state self-sufficiency standard report, published by the Hawai‘i Department of Business, Economic Development and Tourism in December 2019.

DBEDT reported a single adult in Honolulu County with no children needed to earn an hourly wage of $17.21 in 2018 to be able to meet their basic needs and to be economically self-sufficient (a single adult in Kaua‘i County needed to earn $16.48 in 2018).

Chris Molina, of social-justice group Hawai‘i Appleseed, said raising the wage is “a no-brainer.”

“A lot of us say that one job should be enough for someone,” Molina said. “They shouldn’t have to work three or four jobs, just to make a living.”

Molina claimed an increased minimum wage would not only put food on families’ tables but put money in their pockets for spending at local businesses.

“Happy workers, good business,” Molina said.

Catania, gesturing toward the women in attendance yesterday, said women and single mothers are hardest-hit by low pay.

Nina Schanklin, a single mother of two children, was one of the first demonstrators to arrive.

“I haven’t been able to return to work yet, because there’s no affordable childcare,” Schanklin said. “Before the pandemic, I was making $16 an hour, but I feel like it still wasn’t enough to feed my kids and everything.”

Schanklin has always held more than one job throughout her working life.

“Yeah,” she said. “Always at least had two.”

Both Molina and Catania, who noted the state Legislature is back in session next month, said this demonstration is the first of more to come.

“Our job is to get the information out there and to push our politicians, in particular the Democratic Party, to take up the causes of Hawai‘i’s workers, especially the poorest ones,” Catania said.
Source: The Garden Island

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