Workers in Oklahoma are getting their minimum wage increased to $9.50 per hour.
Well, OK, not really. Only the roughly 400 employees of the Native American Cherokee Nation, headquartered in the town of Tahlequah, 74 miles southwest of Tulsa, are getting their minimum wage raised, to $9.50 per hour from the current $9.
Cherokee Nation Principal Chief Bill John Baker signed an executive order on Friday that increases the tribal nation’s current $9 per hour to $9.50 over the next two years. Employees of the tribal government who have at least one year of service will see the pay hike at the start of the next fiscal year in October. More-recent employees will see the pay rise over the course of fiscal year 2015, which begins in October 2014.
“This wage increase will help more Oklahomans put food on the table, and rest easier about how to make ends meet,” Baker said Monday in a statement announcing the executive order. “It will also allow our employees more discretionary spending, which boosts the local economy.”
Baker pointed out that Cherokee Nation Businesses LLC, a tribe-owned holding company for the Cherokee Nation’s for-profit entities, aren't included in the raise. CNB’s current minimum wage is $9.36 per hour. CNB is involved in construction, real estate and hospitality. It recently won an $8.7 million contract with the U.S. Marine Corps to provide support services for planning and programming, capital improvements and asset management.
U.S. President Barack Obama recently signed an executive order that will require federal contractors and subcontractors to phase in a minimum wage increase to $10.10 per hour over the next three years. However, contracts with Native American tribes are exempt.
There are hundreds of Native American reservations, land trusts and so called inter-tribal joint-use areas that enjoy degrees of political and administrative sovereignty, including law enforcement.
About 50 of these jurisdictions are greater than 300 square miles. The Navajo Nation is the country’s largest reservation at 24,096 square miles. These reservations can create their own civil and criminal codes as long as they don’t contradict federal laws. For example, alcohol is prohibited in the Navajo Nation even as it is permitted in the states that surround it.
The Osage Nation in Oklahoma pays its government employees, which number fewer than 60, $11.50 per hour, as of the beginning of the current fiscal year in October. Before the legislation went into effect, Osage Nation government workers made as little as $7.31 per hour. The tiny Jackson Rancheria band of Miwuk, located in California, currently has the nation’s highest minimum wage at $10.60 per hour as of Jan. 1. The increase affects about 1,100 employees of the main local employer, the Jackson Rancheria Casino Resort, which is located on the 1,500-acre reservation. The wage increase will cost the casino resort about $5 million annually, according to Indian Country Today Media Network.