Osage Nation Congress approves pay increases

Robert Smith
Pawhuska Journal-Capital

The Osage Nation Congress, in its recent Hun-Kah session, passed legislation to mandate a phased-in increase of the minimum wage for Osage Nation employees – not including employees of the Osage Nation Gaming Enterprise – to $15 per hour by Oct. 1, 2024.

The legislation, called the “Raise the Wage Act", was introduced by Congressman Eli Potts. Its adoption marked the first increase in the minimum wage for the Osage Nation since 2011. The legislation called for increases on Oct. 1 of each year, beginning with Oct. 1, 2021, until the objective of a $15 per hour wage is achieved in October 2024.

When the Osage Nation minimum wage reaches $15 an hour, the increase in overall annual tribal expenditures is estimated to be about $205,595, according to an Osage Nation fiscal analysis. The phased-in wage increase is expected to help nearly 60 employees.

The measure passed the Congress by a vote of 10-2, with members Angela Pratt and Jodie Revard dissenting.

The minimum-wage increase legislation passed in the same session of the Osage Nation Congress as a measure that will increase the salaries of the Principal Chief and the Assistant Principal Chief, effective July 5, 2022. The salary of the Principal Chief will increase from $95,000 per year to $150,000 per year, while the salary of the Assistant Principal Chief will increase from $75,000 to $115,000.

An Osage Nation fiscal analysis of the overall financial impact of the increase in the salaries of the chiefs showed that the combination of pay, benefits and indirect costs would result in an annual expense increase of $134,990.

The measure to raise the salaries of the chiefs received a vote of 9 in favor, versus 3 dissenting. Members Eli Potts, Joe Tillman and John Maker voted against the bill.

Potts, the principal sponsor of the minimum-wage act, said he was relieved that his bill passed.

“We talk about putting our employees first, putting their families first, but the minimum-wage increase made that a reality,” he said. “I only wish it could have been the first bill passed during this session instead of being one of the last bills passed this session. … I think it was the right thing to do.”