Our employees here at the Cherokee Nation are the backbone of our government and business operations. It is our mission to be the employer of choice in northeast Oklahoma. Increasing the minimum wage for tribal employees was one of the first things I set out to accomplish as Principal Chief. It is a financial investment in our people that will come back to us many times over.
Our government workforce is nearly 4,000 strong, with more than 7,000 individuals comprising our workforce at Cherokee Nation Businesses. Providing a minimum wage of $11 to hourly employees ensures that we remain a positive economic force within the state of Oklahoma. The ripple effect from this action will no doubt boost many community economies across our 14 counties for years to come.
Living costs during the past decade have increased. By giving our workforce a fair, livable wage, hundreds of extra dollars per year will flow into our local market. It will allow more discretionary spending – extra dollars to help buy groceries, get school clothing for children or put gas in the car.
While the new minimum wage will be $11, there is a larger impact thanks to our employment benefits package. We offer full-time employees top-notch health, dental and life insurance, as well as a 401(k) matching plan, paid vacation, sick leave and educational reimbursement. Those kinds of benefits are unheard of in most hourly jobs. Creating full-time quality jobs allows us to hire more Cherokees and, in turn, to retain them long term in our workforce. Less turnover is better for employees, the Cherokee Nation and CNB.
As the largest tribal government in Oklahoma and the United States, we plan to continue to raise the bar for our citizens and for our employees. The financial bump is fiscally responsible and within our budget. The success we have seen over the past decade deserves to be rewarded and shared with our employees.
Our economic growth has been significant, and the hard work of our employees was directly responsible for many of the successes we have seen here at Cherokee Nation and CNB. Giving our dedicated employees a living wage is the right thing to do, and I hope the federal and state governments will eventually follow the leadership example of the Cherokee Nation on this issue.