A trio of labor-related House bills have passed their final committees in both chambers, with only Senate votes and approval by the governor standing in the way of final passage.
Each bill would, if passed, improve working conditions or compensation for employees statewide in various ways.
House Bill 1727 would require employers to provide a minimum amount of paid sick leave to employees unless the employees were paid a certain amount more than minimum wage.
HB 1627, meanwhile, would repeal a statute that allows employers to pay employees with disabilities less than minimum wage.
Finally, HB 2598 would establish a paid family leave special fund administered by the Department of Labor and Industrial Relations that would allow workers to take paid time off to tend to family members.
The bills dealing with paid leave have been highly controversial, with hundreds of pages of testimony — in favor and in opposition — submitted at committee hearings throughout the bills’ journeys.
Many argued that requiring businesses to allow additional paid time off would place an intolerable strain on their productivity.
Gordon Takaki, president-elect of the Hawaii Island Chamber of Commerce, wrote in a February response to HB 2598 that “the management of employee sick benefits should be left up to the employer,” and that employees who abuse their paid leave would create an additional burden.
The statewide Chamber of Commerce Hawaii agreed, stating “with every additional workplace mandate, the competitive distance is increased, which in turn, affects the ability for employers to sustain and create jobs, as well as provide benefits to employees.” Chambers of commerce and employers across the state were vocal in their opposition to HB 1727 and 2598.
On the other hand, a wide array of workers associations, women’s advocacy groups and government agencies supported the paid leave bills. Ford Fuchigami, administrative director of the Office of the Governor, voiced support for HB 2598, as did the YWCA, the Hawaii State Commission on the Status of Women, the Hawaii State Teachers Association and dozens of individual supporters.
Meanwhile, no testimony was submitted in opposition to the current version of HB 1627, which received more than 80 pages of strong support during a hearing Tuesday.
The Senate Ways and Means Committee voted to pass each of the bills this week, with no senators voting no. Therefore, each bill now only requires a Senate vote before proceeding to the governor’s office.
Email Michael Brestovansky at [email protected].