Statement in response to the passage of an $18 minimum wage by 2028 in Hawaii

The following is a statement from Rebecca Dixon, executive director of the National Employment Law Project, in response to the passage of an $18 minimum wage by 2028 in Hawaii.

Today, lawmakers in Hawaii approved a bill that would raise the state minimum wage to $18 by January 2028, marking a victory for underpaid workers in the Aloha State whose hourly wages have been stuck at $10.10 since 2018. The bill now goes to Governor David Ige, who is expected to sign it into law.

More than 192,000 workers (27 percent of the state workforce) will benefit from this policy,[1] including over 110,000 women and 168,000 workers of color.[2]

The National Employment Law Project (NELP) commends the leadership of Hawaii’s Senate and House. The Aloha State is making history by becoming the first state to adopt an $18 or higher minimum wage, leading a renewed push for more robust wages. California is likely to follow this November, when a similar policy goes before voters; and in New York, workers and advocates have launched a campaign to raise the wage floor to as high as $20 by 2025 in New York City, $18 in Long Island, and $16 in the rest of the state.

The pandemic has forced a reckoning in low-wage industries and throughout the economy. Some low-wage industries—such as the restaurant industry—have experienced an exodus as workers have left for jobs offering better pay and more job security.[3]

The pandemic has also emboldened workers, who have been organizing, demanding, and winning more. Workers at Amazon, Starbucks and other workplaces have been voting to form unions to win better pay and better work conditions. This—along with minimum wage victories since 2020—is evidence that workers will no longer accept poverty wages and poor working conditions. With prices rising at their fastest pace in 40 years, higher wages can’t wait!

[1] Estimate refers to workers earning under $15 per hour. An $18 per hour minimum wage is likely to have a substantially higher impact.

[2] David Cooper, Zane Mokhiber, and Ben Zipperer, “Demographic Characteristics of Hawaii Workers Who would Benefit if the Federal Minimum Wage were Raised to $15 by 2025” [table in spreadsheet], Raising the Federal Minimum Wage to $15 by 2025 would Lift the Pay of 32 Million Workers, Economic Policy Institute, March 9, 2021. Spreadsheet can be accessed at The full analysis can be accessed at

[3] One Fair Wage and UC Berkeley Food Labor Research Center, No Rights, Low Wages, No Service, September 2021,

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