By Chris Takahashi | Staff Writer 

On Sunday, Feb. 12, the Rally for Economic Justice took place at Kapi‘olani Park across from the Waikīkī Aquarium. The event was hosted by Young Progressives Demanding Action (YPDA), a group that formerly organized behind candidate Bernie Sanders in the 2016 Democratic presidential primaries. YPDA counts many UH students and community leaders as members.

The Rally for Economic Justice included a consortium of speakers speaking on behalf of economic justice concerns ranging from tax fairness to raising the minimum wage.

YPDA event organizer and executive committee member, Will Caron, stated that the event was the group’s “first legislative-specific rally to organize behind minimum wage legislation.”

YPDA held the event in advance of legislative hearings on bills that would increase the minimum wage in Hawaiʻi. Committee hearings in both the Hawai‘i state Senate and House of Representatives will take place this upcoming Tuesday, Feb. 14. YPDA urged event attendees to submit written or oral testimonies in favor of a statewide minimum wage increase.

The goal is to get the minimum wage increased to $15 per hour by 2021.

According to a 2015 U.S. Department of Commerce report, Honolulu’s adjusted cost of living surpasses those of New York and San Francisco. In addition to the current minimum wage (scheduled to increase from $9.25 to $10.10 in 2018), the high cost of housing and general excise tax further contribute to this statistic.

Aina Iglesias, representing the United Here! Local 5 labor union, shared her story regarding the difficulty of living on the minimum wage alone. Iglesias, who emigrated to Hawai‘i from the Philippines over a decade ago, stated that her family often had to “work two or three jobs just to survive.”

Gavin Thornton, co-executive director of the Hawai‘i Appleseed Center for Law and Economic Justice, said that the overarching goal of the economic justice movement is to ensure that “everybody can achieve economic stability and success.” Thornton continued by citing the high cost of living Hawai‘i and low wages for many blue-collar workers, which can make home ownership “seem like a fairy tale.”

To learn more about submitting testimony on behalf of the minimum wage increase legislation, visit YPDA’s website at