An open letter to the Kauai County Council:

I received an unsigned email from the Kauai Chamber of Commerce today (I’m a member) requesting I email you to oppose an increase in minimum wage (shaded box below). I am doing the opposite, asking you to vote to increase the minimum wage, and telling you that the views of whomever wrote the email do not represent all Chamber members.

One of the arguments this email writer used was, “many small businesses on Kaua’i simply can’t afford such an unprecedented increase.”

Very simply, if a business cannot pay its employees a living wage, it’s already a failure. Propping up failed businesses with laws that hurt workers and allow the businesses to profit from worker poverty does not help Kauai. As Franklin D. Roosevelt said:

FDR Quote

The email also argued, “Just because it works in Los Angeles or Seattle, doesn’t mean it’s right for our community.” While I’m happy they admit raising the minimum wage works in Los Angeles and Seattle, as it does everywhere, I question the point they are trying to make. Our cost of living is higher than Los Angeles and Seattle, so shouldn’t workers make even more here? Do they believe Kauai has some magical economy that doesn’t follow economic principles that work everywhere else? Or are they just playing on local fears of “they’re trying to turn us into Los Angeles?”

If you are worried about prices going up due to a minimum wage increase, ask yourself this – are businesses charging less than they could get right now? Or are they charging the highest prices they can get away with? Of course they are charging as much as they can get. Prices will not go up, because if they did, sales would go down. That’s how capitalism works.

Additionally, as local workers earn more money, they will spend it locally, helping the Kauai economy tremendously. Businesses do better when consumers can afford to buy their products and services, right? This is why in other areas when minimum wage goes up, business booms.

My request, as always, is that you make your decision based on real world data, not on knee-jerk reactions or pressure from the old boy’s network. By doing so, you will serve your constituents, while ensuring you have a good answer to next year’s number one election question, “did you vote to keep my pay below a living wage?”

Mahalo for your time,

Chuck Lasker

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Tomorrow at 10 am, the County Council will consider a 32.67% increase to the minimum wage, bringing rates to $15.00 per an hour by 2019.

In many cases, payroll taxes and benefits cost primary employers about 40 percent of the actual wage paid. At $15.00 an hour the actual cost would be $21.00 per hour.

While many businesses already offer base salaries in this range, the simple fact is that many struggling small businesses, which drive our economy on Kaua’i, can’t afford such a substantial increase. This will impact hiring decisions, whether or not they can expand their business, and could negatively impact their overall fiscal health.

Your Council Member needs to hear from you on this important issue before 10 am tomorrow.

For your convenience, here are their email addresses:

– Council Chair Mel Rapozo:

– Council Vice Chair, Ross Kagawa:

– Council Member, Mason Chock:

– Council Member, Gary Hooser:

– Council Member, Arryl Kaneshiro:

– Council Member, KipuKai Kuali’i:

– Council Member, JoAnn Yukimura:

Even if you believe that higher pay rates make sense, many small businesses on Kaua’i simply can’t afford such an unprecedented increase. Just because it works in Los Angeles or Seattle, doesn’t mean it’s right for our community. Help inform your Council Members that the cost of doing business on Kauai is already high enough. In fact, the state just raised the minimum wage to $10.10 an hour by 2018. Raising it $4.90 more by 2019 is too much too soon.

Please email your Council Member today!