The purpose of the Economic Justice Committee is to develop and implement a social and economic justice agenda for the State of Hawaiʻi. The committee discusses and analyzes current social, economic, political and cultural trends in Hawaiʻi, the U.S. and internationally from a historical perspective. This committee’s mission is to examine the impact of these issues on society, especially on working people, oppressed communities and women, and to make recommendations to our legislators and political leaders for positive actions that can be taken. The committee encourages engagement in educational programs for our members and the community at large on a variety of social, political and economic issues.
The 2019 legislative priorities include (but are not necessarily limited to):
Implementing a living wage for all workers. The cornerstone of the economic justice committee’s work this year will be to partner with a coalition of member groups to advance the Raise Up Hawaiʻi campaign. We’re asking the legislature to pass a bill that would incrementally raise the minimum wage by at least 10 percent per year, eventually catching up, and then holding steady with, inflation and the cost of living. The new law should automatically increase the minimum wage each year to effectively solve this issue and preclude the need for costly, wasteful, continuous campaigns to raise the wage to a level workers deserve and need in order to survive: a legally mandated living wage.
A living wage would give Hawaiʻi’s workers the ability to contribute to the economy which, increasingly, cannot rely on tourism dollars from out-of-state visitors. A living wage would rebuild the bridge from working class to middle class that is hallmark of the once great, now defunct, American Dream. A consumer-based economy is shaped like a pyramid, but decades of trickle-down economic policy has eroded the base of that pyramid, while heavily weighting the top with truly unconscionable levels of wealth-hoarding. The result has been a stalling of our consumer economy as its most important component—consumers—no longer earn enough to make purchases. It’s time to reinvest in our base and create a new New Deal to rejuvenate the middle class. And that starts with a mandated living wage.
Address Hawaiʻi’s housing shortage crisis. Hawaiʻi’s worst-in-the-nation housing shortage has led to the highest home prices in the nation. Far too many of our residents are living in overcrowded quarters or under extreme housing cost-burden, leaving them with few opportunities to save or get ahead. Many others are just one missed paycheck or one medical emergency away from homelessness. And then there are those who have already slipped through the cracks of our shredded social safety net and spend their nights sleeping in parks and on pavement. More and more of our local population is being forced to move elsewhere, and the resulting drain on young talent from the islands is a major problem for Hawaiʻi’s future. This is a trend that must be reversed if Hawaiʻi hopes to remain anything other than a playground for the wealthy.
YPDA recognizes that single family home zoning policies that ban the construction of dense affordable housing is the primary driver of our housing shortage. This policy, originally created to keep poor residents from living in wealthy neighborhoods, excludes residents whose incomes are too low to afford large single family plots of land. The Obama administration, Senator Elizabeth Warren and dozens of other economists and legislators agree that increasing allowable density is a crucial factor in increasing affordable housing. If Hawaiʻi, and Honolulu in particular, is serious about solving the housing crisis and ending our worst-in-the-nation housing shortage, allowing the construction of more homes through an increase in zoning is absolutely necessary. At the same time, YPDA is sensitive to the potential for development that does more harm than good, and will fight to ensure that housing is built to the benefit of working people, not wealthy investors.