Locals argue for higher wages
Originally published in The Garden Island, March 14, 2019
Kauai residents Patricia Wistinghausen and Marion McHenry flew to Honolulu Tuesday to join other advocates on visits to legislators at the state Capitol to urge them to pass a true living wage for workers in Hawaii.
McHenry, who is retired after three decades in the hospitality industry, says she remembers when people like her could live on minimum-wage jobs.
“Not any more,” she said. “Wages have just not kept up with the cost of living. Even with the last increase to $10.10, I see more and more people becoming homeless because they cannot afford a place to stay. I came to speak on their behalf because they cannot leave their jobs to advocate for themselves.
McHenry said she feels for families she has witnessed preparing their children for school while living in a car.
“These children have no place to return to that can be called a home,” she said.
Wistinghausen knows family and friends who have moved away because, even with college degrees, even though they were giving a lot to the community through their work, they simply could not make rent or buy a home or provide adequately for their families.
“My husband was able to make it through college with the help of the GI Bill. And we used a VA loan to get a house. Without that we would not have been able to buy a house,“ she said.
“I am here to speak for those who could not take time off from work. Lawmakers need to hear their stories. I myself will have to work extra hours to make up for income lost spending this day taking those stories to legislators,” said Wistinghausen. “But it needed to be done.”
Current legislative proposals to raise the wage over the course of four to five years are stuck at between $12.50 and $15 an hour. The state Department of Business, Economic Development and Tourism has determined that $17 an hour is what a single person with no children needs.
Advocates are asking legislators to enact a living wage that keeps up with the high cost of living in what is effectively the most expensive state in the nation, according to a press release.