Cherokee Nation hoping to raise minimum wage to $15 an hour

Cherokee nation

TAHLEQUAH, Okla. (KFOR) – Officials with the Cherokee Nation are launching a comprehensive study of its government workforce pay to see about a gradual minimum wage increase.

Cherokee Principal Chief Chuck Hoskin, Jr. says the tribe hopes raise its minimum wage to $15 per hour by 2025.

“Our workforce is simply the best and they are truly experts on serving the needs of our tribe and tribal citizens. They deserve a wage and benefits package that enables them to lead a good, productive quality of life and which keeps our government the employer of choice in an ever growing competitive marketplace,” said Chief Hoskin.

The tribe’s current minimum wage is $11 per hour with full benefits like health insurance, life insurance, and matching 401(k) retirement plans.

For the past decade employees have also been eligible for annual pay increases, averaging 3 percent, and an annual $1,000 Christmas bonus.

“We must make sure that as our tribe prospers the Cherokee people prosper. One way to do that is to make sure our workforce receives a livable wage and benefit package,” said Deputy Chief Warner. “If our employees are compensated fairly, not only will their lives be improved, they will be even more productive as they administer vital programs and services for our people. When we talk about increasing pay, we are really talking about investing in our people which benefits everyone.”

Under Chief Hoskin’s ‘Executive Order on Raising Employee Compensation,’ the tribe’s Human Resources and Finance Department will consult with outside labor experts on a comprehensive review of the pay and benefits for its workers.

“Ultimately the Council must determine how to pay for any wage and benefit increase for the workforce,” said Council Speaker Mike Shambaugh. “The Chief’s executive order makes this job easier because we will have a full analysis well before we are called upon to appropriate funds. The end result will be fairness to our amazing workforce and fairness to our citizens who also benefit from Cherokee Nation programs and services.”

Although the study won’t be completed until late next year, officials say they can still make pay adjustments in the meantime.

“We know that, particularly in the health care field, we must act quickly to respond to changes in the labor market,” said Chief Hoskin. “You can rest assured that in critical areas we will continually monitor and adjust pay to stay competitive even as we look forward to seeing the full study.”

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