Economic Insecurity and Minimum Wage

April Events

2016.04.05 Faith and Labor flyerFaith & Labor

Faith leaders: check out our Faith & Labor Forum Thursday, 4/14 from 11:30a – 1:00p at The Cathedral of St. Andrew, Honolulu. Help us lead the faith community for a better Hawai’i. Lunch will be provided; RSVP at

Working people–our congregations, our neighbors, our families–are working harder to make ends meet. The cost of housing and basic necessities are rising. Good, local jobs are under threat. Reverend Scott Marks, a New Haven pastor, will talk about how he’s organizing his community to fight for good jobs.

Scott Marks was born in North Carolina to a Pastor mother and Deacon father. Lured by the promise of good jobs, his family relocated to New Haven where Scott completed his education. After finding religion in 1985, Scott went on to preach gospel; he continues to pastor at New Growth Outreach ministries. Long compelled to use his strong voice for those who feel they don’t have one, Pastor Marks stepped up to represent his community in city hall as Alderman of Ward 21. As a co-founder of Connecticut Center for a New Economy (CCNE) and New Haven Rising, Scott organized and trained people from all walks of life, races, genders and religions to fight to protect their homes, jobs and communities. He organized marches and rallies, made alliances with local and national leaders, and continuously advocated on behalf of communities ravaged by poverty, violence, and inequality -and for working people everywhere. Recognizing Rev Marks’ solid leadership, UNITE HERE recruited him to serve as President of Local 226-2. The union sent him to organize in some of the country’s most difficult areas. In Las Vegas, Chicago, Washington, DC and Memphis he fought for working people to have a voice and be treated with respect. Pastor Marks rejoined the CCNE staff in 2011. He lives in New Haven with his wife Jill and their six children.

HousingHousing Now Rally Now Rally

Rally for affordable housing! Please join various churches, unions, concerned citizens, and those struggling to find decent & affordable housing as we rally at the State Capitol.

Thursday, April 21, 3pm-6pm at the Hawaii State Capital
Contact Catherine Graham — — for more information.

Payday Loans

We are conducting a survey on payday lending in the state of Hawai'i. Payday lenders (payday loans) are small, short term loans that require borrowers to pay loans back in full by their next payday.
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PICO Training and Aston Waikiki Action

FACE Hawaii — with members from both Oahu and Maui — had a wonderful two day training this past weekend on community organizing offered by the PICO (People Improving Communities through Organizing) National Network. The training was focused on recognizing the roles of privilege and power, creating trust between the members our organization, the importance of sharing our stories, and turning those stories into action. This training was put to work on Friday night, when we joined UNITE HERE! Local 5 in a prayer vigil for ‪#‎Aston‬ Waikiki hotel workers fighting for dignity on the job.

Friday night’s action included a peaceful protest in the lobby and on the front steps of the Aston Waikiki Beach Hotel, where workers are saying they have been harassed and discriminated against for organizing to create a union, and are protesting labor practices and low wages.

Related news coverage from earlier this year about the workers:…/workers-at-aston-hotels-in-wai…




As Faith and Community leaders in Hawaii, it is vital that we speak out against predatory lending practices hurting the

families in our congregations and communities. Payday loans, short term loans where our families are being charged more

than 450% APR, are spreading on our islands, trapping families in a cycle of debt.

As many of our faith traditions have taught us, this is usury and all major religious traditions share a deep opposition to usury.

In our ministries and communities, we see many households struggling financially. As we work together to empower families

and strengthen our economy, the last thing we need to do is saddle households with bottomless debt.

We believe that a limit of 36% APR on Payday Loans in Hawaii would be more fair, would parallel the national protections

already on the books for military families and would make it more likely for our local families to be able to pay these debts

without falling further and further behind.

View full letter with signatures below:


Hawaii should rein in usurious payday loans

Published in the Star Advertiser April 8, 2015

By Kim Harman

Hawaii law allows payday lenders to charge families 459 percent APR (annual percentage rate) on 14- to 32-day loans.

This high interest rate is the result of a loophole that was created in Hawaii law in 1999; prior to 1999, payday loans were not legal here.

Payday loans are small, short-term loans, often secured with a post-dated check that come due on your next “payday.”

According to the Center for Responsible Lending, payday lending is a $46 billion industry nationwide and is growing here, in large part due to Hawaii allowing such high interest rates.

Early this session, Senate Bill 737 was introduced to reduce the interest rate on payday loans from the current 459 percent to 36 percent. Seventeen states and the District of Columbia already cap their payday in terest rates at 36 percent or have made them illegal altogether. The federal government has capped interest rates on payday loans at 36 percent since 2006 for all military and their families. The Department of Defense has found the cap to be so successful in protecting military families from the payday debt cycle that they are requesting authority from Congress to expand the cap to cover other types of high-interest loans, such as car title loans.

But in Hawaii, families are targeted by aggressive payday marketing, charged $86 every paycheck for interest on a $500 loan and trapped in a debt cycle that is very hard to escape. Even successful financial literacy programs run by veteran community organizations such as Catholic Charities and Hawaiian Community Assets struggle to find ways to get these families out of the cycle.

Borrowers have been at the state Capitol, telling their stories to legislators. Veronica, a young mother, was trapped in her payday loan for 11 months. Napua, whose son just joined the Army, told the House Consumer Protection Committee of being ashamed that she fell for the “easy money” promised by a payday storefront.

The Hawaii Office of Consumer Protection has testified in favor of the 36 percent cap at hearings this year. A broad coalition of clergy, advocates, environmentalists and more has called for an end to these usurious interest rates that take advantage of our most vulnerable families.

One legislator on the Finance Committee asked me a few weeks ago: “If we tell the stores and the gas stations that they cannot inflate the price of water and gasoline when a tsunami warning is declared, why is it OK for payday lenders to inflate the cost of credit when a family is in financial crisis?”

Many in Hawaii are in agreement that 400-plus percent interest rates are usury and should not be allowed. Catholic, Methodist and Episcopal bishops here and across the country have been particularly outspoken in support of a 36 percent cap on payday loan annual interest rates.

Supporters of the current interest rate argue that it is unfair to call their fees and charges “interest.” The Truth in Lending Act as well as the Federal Trade Commission require that payday lenders combine all these costs into an APR or annual percentage rate so that borrowers can compare the cost of credit from one storefront to another. In the U.S., we all must use APR for loans, no matter what an individual lender would prefer to call it.

Two weeks ago, President Barack Obama spoke out against predatory payday loan practices. The national Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) is holding hearings and doing what it can to curb abusive payday practices, but the CFPB, like the U.S. military, was never authorized by Congress to cap interest rates for the general public.

Capping interest rates is the No. 1 reform that would help local families trapped in the payday debt cycle and must be governed by each state legislature.

Payday Lenders: It’s Time to Rein In Hawaii’s Loan Sharks


Payday Lenders: It’s Time to Rein In Hawaii’s Loan Sharks

New legislation would eliminate the industry’s current 459 percent APR ceiling, but an amendment passed Wednesday makes it unclear what the new cap would be.


If you were broke and desperate, perhaps the least you might expect of the government is that it wouldn’t help to make your situation worse. Yet that is exactly what the state has done for nearly 16 years now through its laissez faire treatment of Hawaii’s burgeoning payday loan industry.

As Civil Beat’s Anita Hofschneider reported earlier this week, Hawaii has one of the nation’s most permissive payday lending laws, allowing companies to charge an annual percentage rate of up to 459 percent, according to an analysis performed a decade ago by the State Auditor.

Sadly, not much has changed since that analysis, except the number of lenders offering their payday products to typically poor borrowers with few options.

Nationally, that has resulted in a troubling trend: According to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, four out of five payday loans are followed by another payday loan within two weeks. The effect of that trend is only magnified in Hawaii with its stratospheric APR limit and lax oversight of the industry.

Cory Lum/Civil Beat

Payday lending shop along Farrington Highway. 21 march 2015. photograph Cory Lum/Civil Beat
A payday lending shop along Farrington Highway in Waianae. There are at least four in Waianae and Nanakuli, some of the poorest areas on Oahu.

Here’s how the payday loan process works. Borrowers can take out loans of up to $600. The lender gets a 15 percent fee, but the loan must be repaid within 32 days.

Cash-strapped individuals, who often need the money to cover basic expenses such as food and rent, are frequently unable to repay on time. A federal report notes that rather than being repaid, 80 percent of such loans are rolled over or renewed. As a result, payday loan borrowers are typically indebted for roughly 200 days.

Despite the fact that they’re not supposed to be able to take out a second loan while the first note remains due, many do so to repay the first, ensnaring themselves in a cycle of loan repayment from which it is difficult to escape.

Hawaii’s House Consumer Protection and Commerce Committee on Wednesday took up Senate Bill 737, a measure that would bring long overdue reform to this industry, including establishing a five-day waiting period between paying off one loan and taking out another and increasing the fine for lenders who willfully violate the law to $5,000. But when it came to interest rates — the heart of the bill — the committee lost its nerve.

In its original form, SB737 would have eliminated the 459 percent APR, forbidding payday lenders from charging any more than 36 percent. However, bowing to committee Vice Chair Justin Woodson, the committee elected to leave the percentage rate blank before passing the measure unanimously. It now will be up to Rep. Sylvia Luke’s Finance Committee to determine not only what the ceiling should be, but whether the APR rate limit is even “the appropriate measurement solution.”

In all of these considerations, payday lenders are well represented: Bruce Coppa, former chief of staff for then-Gov. Neil Abercrombie and current lobbyist for Capitol Consultants, was dutifully watching on Wednesday. He has said lack of enforcement of state law preventing lenders from rolling over loans is the real culprit, not the APR ceiling.

The federal Consumer Financial Protection Bureau on Thursday released a proposed framework of reform regulations that would bring new discipline to the $46-billion payday loan industry, which it says collects about $8.7 billion annually in interest and fees. While the proposals focus on eliminating “debt traps” around issues like borrower qualification and the number of loans and loan rollovers possible in a given period, they stopped short of capping interest rates for these short-term debts, in part because until now, payday lending regulation has been done at the state level.

Critics already say the proposed federal regulations don’t go far enough, and that the payday loan industry will be able to exploit loopholes and largely continue current practices. Given that the industry’s products have already been banned outright in 14 states and the District of Columbia, that’s particularly disappointing.

For Hawaii, the interest rate issue thus comes down to what course the House chooses next. Will it follow the Senate’s lead and come through on behalf of impoverished borrowers? Or will it allow SB737 to die, as it did similar reform measures in 2013 and 2014, and continue to leave individuals at the mercy of loan sharks who circle our islands in ever greater numbers?

We’re watching, too.

Minimum Wage Bill Signed!

Governor Neil Abercrombie and FACE celebrate Hawaii’s new minimum wage. On May 23 in the Capitol auditorium, the governor signed the minimum wage bill that FACE campaigned to help pass. The House and Senate had agreed to $10.10 spread out over 4 years with a big revision (improvement) to the tip credit.

FACE Maui leader Mitzi Toro, aka the Maui Cookie lady, even designed a special cookie for the signing!



Three Demands in Minimum Wage Fight


No Tip Credit

Adjust for CPI (Consumer Price Index)

minwage-signsatcapitolA growing coalition of Hawaii organizations is joining the fight to increase Hawaii’s long-stagnant minimum wage. Families from across our islands are getting involved in the legislative process for the first time so that they can tell their story of living on minimum or near-minimum wage.

FACE Carols at the Capitol

Hawaii Needs a Raise Coalition went to the Capitol to carol for economic justice.


From left to right: Mary Morgan Evans, Steve Dinion, Joyce Charles, James Fitzpatrick, Gretchen Jong, and Drew Astolfi


snowflake  Carols for Justice  snowflake