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Cherokee Nation employees share excitement as Chief-elect proposes minimum wage increase

Posted at 4:05 PM, Aug 08, 2019
and last updated 2019-08-08 18:10:27-04

TAHLEQUAH, Okla. — Michelle Keys is a receptionist with Cherokee Nation's Department of Human Services. Keys currently makes $9.50 an hour, and picks up other jobs where she can to make ends meet.

"You think of jobs you can do on the side that won't affect your job here, because you don't want to take away from your full time job. So you do things, I mean I clean houses on the side or whatever I can do. But I also thought about taking a part-time job somewhere else," she said.

That's why Chief-elect Chuck Hoskin Jr. and his team announced this week plans of an executive order, raising Cherokee Nation's minimum wage to $11.

"Now that lifts the entire family. The family can go back and they can come together with their family unit and decide what changes and what things this will bring to their lives," Deputy Chief-elect Bryan Warner said.

People who work for Cherokee Nation tell 2 Works for You they expect this proposal will boost morale, and change their lives both in and out of the office.

"There's always challenges, I think with any income. Any little bit helps. But for the most part it was paycheck to paycheck. So this came as a really good surprise and helps us out a lot," Department of Human Services employee Matthew Coon said.

The increase will impact more than 400 employees. Many are already making plans.

"I have grandchildren, so take grandchildren to the zoo more often and do things with them. Plus, if I want to get a better car I'll be able to make a car payment without having to worry," Keys said.

This order will take effect October first. Funding is part of the proposed 2020 budget, subject to approval by the council later this month.
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