Hoskin administration plans to raise Cherokee Nation minimum wage

08/08/2019 09:15 AM
Main Cherokee Phoenix
Cherokee Nation employees react to an announcement on Aug. 7 by Principal Chief-elect Chuck Hoskin Jr. that the tribe’s minimum wage will rise from $9.50 to $11 an hour beginning Oct. 1. CHAD HUNTER/CHEROKEE PHOENIX
Main Cherokee Phoenix
Cherokee Nation operators Mary Washington, Janice McCarter and Rufina Crittenden visit with Principal Chief-elect Chuck Hoskin Jr. following his announcement that the tribe’s minimum wage will go from $9.50 to $11 per hour starting Oct. 1. COURTESY
TAHLEQUAH – The Cherokee Nation’s incoming administration plans to raise the tribe’s minimum wage from $9.50 to $11 an hour.

The surprise announcement was made Aug. 7 at the W.W. Hastings Hospital outpatient clinic. More than 100 employees affected by the change showed up, but were unaware of the planned pay increase until Principal Chief-elect Chuck Hoskin Jr. revealed it during a group photo.

“I was ecstatic,” minimum-wage earner Michelle Keys with Human Services said. “Before, we would do the merit raise, which is 3 percent or a lump sum. Well I would always have to take the lump sum because something would come up. I’d be regretting it later because it didn’t up my wages. This is going to allow me to have an emergency fund where I don’t have to rely on the lump sum. It’s going to do a lot for my family.”

Other employees in the pool of 415 making less than $11 an hour echoed Keys’ enthusiasm.

“It was great,” housekeeper Joanne Lowery said of the announcement. “I was so happy.”
For Jerrad Dry with facility maintenance, the increase in pay “will make bills a little easier.”

The lowest-paid CN employees already earn more than the state’s minimum wage. Oklahoma is one of 16 states that follow the federal minimum-wage requirement of $7.25 that was enacted in 2009.

“Out of 39 tribes in the state of Oklahoma, we do really well,” Tribal Council Speaker Joe Byrd told those in attendance. “We’re here today to make sure that you’re getting the resources that you need to take care of our Cherokee people – 366,000-plus Cherokees we have throughout the United States.”

To a round of applause, Hoskin announced that the increase would take effect Oct. 1 via executive order and the Tribal Council’s budget. It will apply to CN governmental employees.

“It’s fiscally responsible,” Hoskin said. “It keeps us sustainable. But it’s the right thing to do because you all are on the front lines delivering the services and programs to our people.”

The tribe’s 99 full-time employees earning $9.50 per hour will make an additional $3,120 annually. The change, part of Hoskin’s “first 100 days of office” initiatives, will be his first executive order as chief. Funding for the wage increases is part of the proposed fiscal year 2020 budget, subject to approval by the Tribal Council at its budget hearings.

Hoskin’s running mate and Deputy Chief-elect, Bryan Warner, the outgoing Dist. 6 Tribal Councilor, told employees to “keep up the good work because good works pays off.”

“As far as I can tell the last four years being on the council, our workforce is second to none,” he said. “We have great people who want to come in and do great things.”

Hoskin, Warner and other leaders elected June 1 will be sworn in Aug. 14.

“We constantly want to improve,” Hoskin said. “That’s one of the reasons we’ve gathered you all here today. (Warner) and I want an administration that listens to the employees, that finds out what the needs are and tries our level best to meet those needs. It’s important to me that people show up to work and feel like they’re making a difference, and that the people they work with and the people that supervise them know that they’re making a difference.”

CN employees are eligible for health, dental and life insurance; a 401k matching plan; paid vacation and sick leave; and other perks such as educational reimbursement and a Christmas bonus.
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