Guest review. The workers employed by Cherokee Nation take care of all of us. Whether it’s clerks, doctors, nurses, food service workers, teachers, accountants, language preservation experts, maintenance technicians or just one of the many professions of our workforce, they help hundreds of thousands of Cherokees across our reserve and across the country. Our government workforce is over 4,200 people, and 82% of them are Cherokee.
A workforce that is fairly paid and treated with respect is a workforce that can serve the Cherokee people. That’s why, when Deputy Chief Bryan Warner and I took office in 2019, we worked with the Council of the Cherokee Nation to raise the minimum wage to $ 11 an hour. Employees of the Cherokee Nation also benefit from health insurance, life insurance and a pension plan. They are entitled to annual pay increases, typically around 3%, as well as a Christmas bonus of $ 1,000. More recently, we have added a paid âwellness leaveâ benefit, and we will be adding more amenities such as walking trails at our work sites.
During the COVID pandemic, we took the need to protect workers very seriously. We invested millions in âtop payâ for those who worked in public places, paid time off for those who couldn’t, and telecommuting for those who worked remotely. We recently sent out a second round of bonuses, with mechanisms to pay them more if the risk of COVID increases.
We don’t stop there. Deputy Chief Warner recently told me, “When we talk about raising wages, we are really talking about investing in the Cherokee people.” He is absolutely right, which is why I signed an executive order that puts us on the path to a minimum wage of $ 15 by October 2025, with the first increases towards that target starting in the fall. next.
Equally important, the decree calls for an expert study of the entire wage structure of the government workforce. As we have grown over the years, salary adjustments have been uneven across the workforce. The in-depth study will help correct this and ensure that as we raise the minimum wage we avoid “wage compression” where long-tenured employees see the value of their years of service diminished by entry-level workers. starting at a higher minimum wage. We will also be looking at any gender pay inequalities in our workforce, as men and women deserve an equal chance at success.
The order goes further for our minimum wage earners who have been hit hardest by the COVID-ravaged economy. We are developing a âBridges to Successâ program, launched early next year, to help them increase their income and achieve their career dreams.
None of this focus on our government workforce should interfere with the service provided by the thousands of workers in our businesses and other entities. For this reason, my Executive Order encourages the management of all of our entities, including Cherokee Nation Businesses, to make comparable efforts to improve compensation. The entire Cherokee Nation working family – over 11,000 men and women – deserves our best efforts.
We must continue to explore ways to go further, in order to always remain the employer of choice for talented Cherokees. Whether it’s expanding benefits, improving mental well-being or improving a healthy work / life balance, I am convinced that we can do more.
The Cherokee people deserve the best and the brightest public servants in all positions. We have it now, but we will lose it if we don’t take care of our people and plan for the future. I firmly believe that the steps we take today will ensure that the next generation of talented Cherokees living here and across the country will flow into government service with the Cherokee Nation. It’s up to them to master and exploit jobs and skills that we haven’t even imagined yet for the sake of the Cherokee people. The greatest aspirations we have for our great nation lie in the hands of Cherokee Nation employees today and into the future.
Chuck Hoskin, Jr. is the chief leader of the Cherokee Nation.
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