Cherokee Nation, the sovereign government of the tribal Cherokee people in Oklahoma, has increased the minimum wage for tribe employees from $9.50 (£7.83) an hour to $11 (£9.07) an hour.
The wage increase, announced in August 2019 by Cherokee Nation’s principal chief-elect Chuck Hoskin Jr, will be effective from 1 October 2019; funding for the pay rises will form part of the proposed 2020 fiscal budget, subject to approval by the Council of the Cherokee Nation later this month.
The pay increase is expected to benefit 415 government employees who currently earn less than $11 an hour; this includes 99 staff members who receive the existing base pay of $9.50 an hour. These full-time employees will see their minimum pay improve by $3,120 (£2,571.68) a year.
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The improvements are also predicted to positively impact around 1,382 government employees who earn between $11 an hour and $15 (£12.36) an hour.
The pay increases, which are higher than the local federal minimum wage of $7.25 (£5.98) an hour, form part of Cherokee Nation’s wider benefits package. This includes health, dental and life insurance, a 401k matching pension plan, paid holiday and sick leave, an educational reimbursement scheme and a holiday bonus.
Hoskin said: “Our 3,850 Cherokee Nation employees are the backbone of our government. Raising the minimum wage is going to be life-changing for them and their families, at a time when the costs of goods and services continues to rise.
“For months, I have listened to the concerns of our tribal employees and sought guidance from the Council of the Cherokee Nation. I promised them I would put together a plan that is both fiscally responsible and allows employees to rest easier knowing they will be able to better make ends meet.
“I’m proud this will be one of my first acts as principal chief. This pay increase is absolutely the right thing to do and this is the right time to do it.”
Hoskin announced the pay rise at the WW Hastings outpatient health facility in Tahlequah.
Bryan Warner, deputy chief-elect at Cherokee Nation, added: “Taking care of Cherokee Nation employees and their families is a responsibility we do not take lightly. These women and men are on the front lines of providing vital services to the Cherokee people.
“When we pay employees a competitive wage, they not only benefit by having more money to pay bills and to put into savings, but the Cherokee Nation as a whole benefits because our quality of life is improved.”