Guest Post: Rage, sadness and determination – Gary Hooser reflects on the 2020 legislative session & minimum wage issue

This blogpost is a re-publication of an important personal message that just went out from the founder President of the Hawai’i Alliance for Progressive Action and former Majority Leader of the Hawai’i Senate, Gary Hooser. It points us to actions each of us can take to translate our outrage into actions that could help shape policies that impact our community. We can each do something to keep bad things from happening. Please read and respond in ways that make the most sense for you. Mahalo for anything you can do. Above all, vote–and tell others too as well.

A friend, who just started getting involved in advocacy at the Capitol sent me this note recently:

“I woke up furious this morning, Gary. I think my brain rehashed things and connected the dots overnight. And I woke up so angry. At the broken system and the elected leaders who do not honor their duty to represent their constituents.  I was rage crying!But I know having all of you around me will help me channel it to something powerful. I have a lot to offer – just need to learn how to do it most effectively.”

So now you know.  For those of you who have read this far, you know it’s about sharing the rage and the sadness.  But it’s also about sharing the commitment to keep pushing against those feelings and channeling that negative energy into hopefulness and positive action.

This is why you are receiving the email.  I suspect you, and most of us feel that same disappointment in our political system as my friend expressed so eloquently.

But either we give up and walk away, or we take ownership, engage the system, challenge the status quo, and help change things for the better.

Personally, I maintain my sanity and optimism by focusing on the local.  While our Federal government seems so distant, so convoluted and during this time of Trump, so bat-shit crazy – at our local government level it is somewhat different.

Fortunately, we live in a community that is small enough where we can, without question, have a tangible impact on local government and politics.

Many elections are won and lost by only a handful of votes.  A seat in the State House of Representatives can be won sometimes with as little as 1,000 to 1,500 votes.

100 emails or telephone calls from constituents to their district State Senator or Representative are more than sufficient to make them sit up and listen.

To Stay Sane, Take Action.

Those who have been following bills at the legislature may know that HB2541 which proposes to increase Hawai’i’s minimum wage to $13 was recently heard by a Joint House Committee – Labor/Finance.

At the end of the hearing, the Joint Committee decided to “defer decision making until a later date”.

In some ways, this is good news.  The Committee clearly was in an awkward position and it would have looked very bad for them to simply approve HB2541 without changes after receiving overwhelming testimony telling them that $13 was not enough.

Wisely, the Committee hit the “pause button”.

It is likely that during this period (which could end any day) the Committee is consulting with their colleagues in the Senate, perhaps the Governor and also with the Hawai’i Chamber of Commerce and other interests.

You can be sure the pressure is intense. After all, this is an election year, and in the House especially, candidates are lining up.

The optics do not look good at all.

  1. The legislators themselves will all be getting raises.
  2. The legislature is dominated by Democrats and the official Platform of the Democratic Party and Party Resolutions are in support of a $15 minimum wage.
  3. Almost every Democratic legislator has signed a document supporting the Democratic Party Platform.
  4. A majority of legislators, including some in the House/Senate leadership, have said publicly, either to the media or to constituents via email or via other means that they support at least $15 per hour.
  5. The Governor campaigned for re-election touting his support for a $15 per hour minimum wage.
  6. The Senate position (HB1191 HD1 S) at the close of the 2019 session was in support of $15 per hour by 2023 (prior to the House walking away and effectively killing the measure in Conference Committee).

If this issue is important to you – take the time today (by end of the day Monday, February 3rd) to contact your district Representative and Senator – let them know that $13 is not enough.

Small businesses that fear negative impacts from having to increase their workers’ wages need only look at the recent history in Hawai’i for reassurance.

When Hawai’i’s minimum wage was increased from $7.25 to $10.10, there were no increases in bankruptcy, no increases in unemployment and no increases in inflation (outside the normal trend).  So long as the increases are phased in incrementally, the predictions promoted by the naysayers do not occur.

For background, and why $13 in 2024 is woefully inadequate, please read the following:

 $13 by 2024 is not a good first step, it’s actually a step backward.

Honor MLK by carrying out his vision: It’s past time for a real LIVING WAGE in Hawaii

Hawaii’s economy will benefit from a higher minimum wage. Civil Beat 

First steps to being a strong advocate: 

Read: The Legislature: Hierarchy of access and influence

For the very basics read: Legislative Primer 101

For those that are newer to advocacy work, you need to know your voice is most powerful when speaking to the legislator who represents the district in which you live and vote.  Please learn who that is and contact them directly.

MOST IMPORTANT – Determine who your State Senator and Representative are. This is information you need to put on your refrigerator so it is never forgotten, as this is the individual you will need to reach out to most often. Click here to determine who represents you: And for those who want more of the nitty-gritty advanced training as to how the legislature works:
Lessons from the ledge. An almost complete primer of how things really work at the legislature.

Mahalo to all for sharing in the responsibility for taking ownership of our government, for being involved, for getting educated on the issues and most of all for taking ACTION.


Gary Hooser

P.S.  If you share this email with friends, please encourage them to also subscribe directly by going to my subscription page.

Note: Full disclosure – While I am Vice-Chair of the Democratic Party of Hawaii, the comments contained in this email are my own only and do not represent the official position of the Democratic Party or any organization I might be affiliated with 😉

Tagged with: ,
Posted in 2020 Hawaii legislative session, Business and Justice, I BLOG, Uncategorized

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: