The Second Osage Nation Congress voted unanimously to raise the hourly minimum wage for ON government employees to $10 on April 7 during the Hun-Kah Session. The wage increase targets nearly 50 positions, some of which pay just about the federal minimum wage level of $7.25 per hour.
The raise will take effect Oct. 1 if signed by Principal Chief John Red Eagle.
The bill (ONCA 11-27) also seeks a second minimum wage increase to $11.50 in October 2013 when FY 2014 starts.
A Congressional fiscal analysis reports that approximately 52 government employees would benefit from the wage increase. Those positions currently pay between $7.31 and $9.87 per hour.
Speaker Jerri Jean Branstetter, who sponsored the bill, said positions benefitting from the wage increase would include: Mail room staff, currently making $9.60 per hour; Janitors ($7.56); Day care teachers ($8.19); and Maintenance staff ($8.69).
Branstetter said the minimum wage bill came in the wake of studying employee salaries and noting disproportions in some salaries higher than others. “In fairness… to these people who are making less than $20,800 a year (the annual income for a full-time employee who would make $10 per hour), that’s why this legislation came forward,” Branstetter said.
Citing research by the Office of Fiscal Performance and Review, Branstetter said the average hourly wage of a tribal government employee is $15.85, “so we have several individuals who are well under this and this (bill) is seeking to try to help these individuals who are under these wages and to try and increase the salaries for them and those who need to be certified to take care of our children of the Nation.”
The wage increase for the 52 employees would cost about $224,000, according to the fiscal analysis.
The bill passed 11-0 with Congressman Mark Simms absent.
Oklahoma does not have a state-mandated minimum wage higher than the federal level.
The federal minimum wage was last increased to $7.25 per hour in 2009. The year before, it was $6.55 per hour.
Congress issues subpoena to ON Treasurer
Just before the April 7 session adjourned, Congressman Raymond Red Corn motioned for Branstetter to issue a subpoena for Treasurer William Kemble to appear before the Congressional Affairs Committee to address questions concerning Congressional compensation. The motion unanimously passed.
“I move,” said Red Corn, “to have the Speaker issue a subpoena to the Treasurer of the Osage Nation, William Kemble, to appear before the Congressional Affairs Committee (on) April 15, 2011 at 9 a.m. for the purpose of providing testimony regarding the compensation, taxation and compensation withholding for members of Congress of fiscal years 2006, 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010 and 2011 and to bring with him any documentation necessary to assist his testimony.”
Red Corn’s request for a subpoena is based on ONCA 07-48, which gives Congress the authority to issue subpoenas. It was passed by the First ON Congress.
Branstetter said this is the first time the Second ON Congress has used the subpoena authority.
April 15 is the 23rd day of the 24-day Hun-Kah Session. Congress has the option to extend the session for three additional days, but no decision to extend the session has been made.