Hoskin minimum raises

Cherokee Chief-elect Chuck Hoskin speaks about a minimum wage increase at the new W.W. Hastings outpatient health facility in Tahlequah on Wednesday during a surprise visit with more than 100 employees who will be affected by the change. Courtesy

TAHLEQUAH — Almost 1,800 Cherokee Nation employees are about to get a pay raise.

At a town hall meeting Wednesday morning at W.W. Hastings Hospital’s outpatient clinic, Principal Chief-elect Chuck Hoskin Jr. announced that he will sign an executive order to increase the tribe’s minimum wage from $9.50 per hour to $11 per hour when the new fiscal year starts on Oct. 1.

Hoskin takes office on Aug. 14.

“It’s fiscally responsible,” he said, addressing about 100 employees at the clinic. “It keeps us sustainable because we want to be sustainable for the Cherokee people. It’s the right thing to do because you all are on the front lines, delivering the services and programs to our people.”

Once the increase takes effect, full-time employees currently earning $9.50 per hour will make an additional $3,120 annually.

Cherokee Nation employs about 3,850 people. The increases will affect 415 government employees who currently earn less than $11 per hour, including 99 earning the existing minimum wage. Raises will also positively affect 1,382 government employees earning between $11 and less than $15 per hour.

The raise only applies to employees of the Cherokee Nation’s government, including its clinics and hospitals. It does not extend to the tribe’s business entities, including its 10 casinos.

As per the tribe’s Communications Department, funding for the pay raises announced Wednesday was accounted for in the proposed 2020 budget. The Tribal Council is scheduled to start budget hearings on Aug. 19.

In July, outgoing Tribal Council member David Walkingstick attempted to introduce legislation that would have increased employee salaries by up to $3,000 through an increased dividend from the tribe’s businesses.

However, without the tribe’s Finance Department on board, the proposal did not advance past the committee level.

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