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LETTERS for the Jan. 21 issue

By Staff | Jan 22, 2021

Thanks to the heroes of the Washington attack

We watched in horror as the Trump Army attacked our government in Washington. It reminded many of us that there are people at the tip of the spear. They are thousands of faceless government employees, experts, facilitators, intellectuals and many others, all of them our neighbors. All of them are in mortal danger because they have chosen to devote their professional lives to the common good.

In our case, many of these individuals are colleagues and friends. We are volunteer lobbyists, working on a planetary solution to global climate change and global warming. Our job at Citizen’s Climate Lobby, CCL, includes working with the dedicated staff members of our members of Congress.

CCL is a volunteer organization. We have over 180,000 volunteers in all 50 states, including over 800 in four Hawaii chapters. We work, mostly, in concert and cooperation with the men and women who staff the offices of our senators and representatives. We work sometimes in opposition, but when we do, we never lose sight of our goals and the fact that in order to make progress, we need to be honest, professional and hard working.

We are proud of our jobs, our performance, our mission and our results. We are endlessly grateful to the brave individuals who protected our colleagues, our friends and the faceless army that works to protect us from the forces that seek to ruin our efforts.

Many of us in the U.S. are now in the habit of telling members of our armed forces “Thank you for your service.” Let’s make an effort to include in that multitude to the staff members who work in the offices of our government. They deserve it.

JEFF STARK, Citizens Climate Lobby, Maui Chapter

Guidelines for making nuclear agreements

In making a nuclear agreement with Iran or North Korea, President Biden must hold out for the inspection of suspected sites without a waiting period.

If there is a waiting period, they can move the materials for making a nuclear weapon — such as enriched uranium — to a second site during the waiting period for the first site; then when the second site comes under suspicion, it will have a waiting period during which the material can be moved to a third site; and so on. ALEX SOKOLOW, Lahaina

Hawaii workers deserve a raise

While the tumultuous actions occurring in Washington, D.C., are tremendously important and demand our urgent attention, we must also not lose focus on what’s happening here in Hawaii.

Aloha friends, advocates and all who work hard every day but earn less than $15 per hour — please send a message to Speaker of the House Scott Saiki telling him clearly that Hawaii’s minimum wage workers deserve a raise. Even if the legislature acts during the upcoming session, any increase would not likely be implemented until 2022. If Speaker Saiki and his colleagues fail to take action this year, then an increase in the minimum wage will be further delayed to 2023 and beyond.

Pandemic or no pandemic, minimum wage workers in 27 different states and dozens of cities and counties will be receiving a raise this year. But here in Hawaii, our frontline workers will get nothing and remain stuck at $10.10 per hour in a state where it costs $17 simply to survive.

In Seattle, Washington and in San Francisco, California, the minimum wage already exceeds $16 per hour. Residents in Florida just voted to increase their minimum wage to $15 per hour.

There is a long list of states and municipalities that have passed laws increasing their minimum wage to $15 per hour AND they require automatic annual adjustments tied to the cost of living.

Despite having a legislature dominated by Democrats, and a Democratic Party that has made increasing the minimum wage a top priority, Hawaii’s legislative leadership has refused to give minimum wage workers any raise at all. And unlike California, New York and 12 other states, they have also refused to require annual increases tied to the cost of living.

The upcoming 2021 Legislative Session will obviously be more challenging than in past years. It is highly likely that legislative leadership will attempt to fast-track the budget, avoid substantive policy issues such as the minimum wage increase, and exit the session just as soon as they possibly can.

This path of delay and avoidance is unacceptable. The issues are too important — $17 per hour by 2026, with annual cost of living increases, should be our target.

In 2019, Governor Ige publicly supported a $15 minimum wage. The Hawaii Senate actually passed such a bill that was subsequently gutted by the House and killed in Conference Committee. Standing in the way of its passage seems always to be the House.

Thus, if a minimum wage increase is to occur in 2021 it must have the support of Saiki.

If Speaker Saiki wants to pass a bill increasing Hawaii’s minimum wage, it will happen. If he opposes an increase, then no increase will be passed and frontline workers will get nothing.

Hawaii has the highest cost of living in the entire United States. The pandemic has exposed more than ever before the injustice put upon our most essential workers, who are paid the equivalent of starvation wages. Our lawmakers need to respect and support frontline workers and pass a strong minimum wage increase during the upcoming session.

The reality of any wage increase passed by the legislature in 2021 is that it would not likely go into effect until 2022 and be phased in slowly over a four- or five-year time period. To those who claim economic calamity will occur if the minimum wage is increased, the historical evidence and research indicate this is absolutely not the case.

If you believe, as I do, that anyone who works 40 hours a week deserves a wage sufficient to provide a dry, safe place to live and three basic meals a day, please contact Speaker Saiki today and ask him to support and help pass such a measure into law.

It’s important. Please e-mail today if you can. If you are a minimum wage worker or earn less than $15 per hour, please tell your story and why increasing the minimum wage is important to you.

Mahalo to all for taking the time to take action on this very important issue.

GARY HOOSER, Pono Hawaii Initiative