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Published: Thursday, 6/14/2012

Kaptur defends record on gender equity in pay

BY TOM TROY
BLADE POLITICS WRITER

Republican congressional candidate Samuel "Joe the Plumber" Wurzelbacher says his opponent, U.S. Rep. Marcy Kaptur (D., Toledo), is guilty of hypocrisy because she pays the women on her congressional staff less than the men.

But the Kaptur campaign fired back that the fact that Miss Kaptur currently has men in her three highest paid jobs doesn't qualify as "paycheck disparity."

Mr. Wurzelbacher said the disparity in male-female pay conflicts with her recent rhetoric attacking Republicans on women's issues.

"If Marcy Kaptur believes that we need new regulations on American businesses in order to address the problem of workplace-pay disparity, she should lead by example. This is just another case of politicians making rules for everybody else that they don't have to follow themselves," Mr. Wurzelbacher said.

His campaign said it analyzed 10 years of salary data for Miss Kaptur's office, through 2010, and found that men were paid more than women by between $5,000 and $19,000 a year.

According to Miss Kaptur's office staff list provided to The Blade, the current average pay for the nine male staffers is $71,777, and the average pay for the eight female staffers is $48,375, a difference of $23,402.

The difference in the average pay appears to be because of the types of jobs, not the gender of the holders.

The three highest-paid people in the office are Chief of Staff Steve Katich, with base pay of $148,000, Deputy Chief of Staff Nathan Facey with a base pay of $119,000, and Director of Communications Steve Fought at $88,000.

Mr. Katich said people are paid according to job classifications and years of experience and that Mr. Wurzelbacher's attack is totally unrelated to the principle of pay equity, which requires equal pay for equal work. He said women have held the highest positions in the office and that the last time a woman was chief of staff was 2000.

What triggered Mr. Wurzelbacher's attack was several statements Miss Kaptur has made in recent months in support of the 2009 Lilly Ledbetter Act that came about after its namesake was barred from suing for back pay based on gender discrimination.

Miss Kaptur is co-sponsoring the Paycheck Fairness Act to further strengthen the ability of victims of gender discrimination's ability to sue, including making employers liable for punitive damages. The bill puts Republicans on the defensive on women's issues in an election year.

On April 11, Miss Kaptur said the inability of Mitt Romney, the likely Republican nominee for president, to say whether he supports the Ledbetter law showed "just how out of touch he is with women in Ohio and our families." The Romney campaign has said he supports pay equity for women.

Mr. Wurzelbacher called on Miss Kaptur to dig into her campaign-finance funds "to reimburse the female staffers to whom she denied equal pay for so many years."

"She was on Al Sharpton talking about women being among the nation's poorest people and women need to be promoted and paid accordingly, and it's not the practice she follows in her own office," Mr. Wurzelbacher said.

A transcript of the May 12 Rev. Al Sharpton show on cable TV channel MSNBC shows that Miss Kaptur said "the poorest people in this country are women," but did not specifically reference women being promoted. Miss Kaptur blasted Republican opposition to President Obama's proposed transportation bill that would create infrastructure jobs.

"It seems to me that there should be a little more focus on the economic challenges facing women in this country," she said in that interview.

Asked if he would support the Paycheck Fairness Act that Democrats have been pushing, Mr. Wurzelbacher said existing laws — the Equal Pay Act, the Fair Labor Standards Act, and the Lilly Ledbetter Act — address equal pay for equal work.

Miss Kaptur said in an interview Monday that she's proud of her hiring record and called Mr. Wurzelbacher's attack "a smokescreen." She said women are running on the Democratic side in seven of the 16 Ohio congressional races, but all 16 Republicans on the ballot are men.

"I'd put our record up against any member of Congress in employing both men and women and paying them well," she said. "Women have held every position in our office. I promote from within. We try to grow our own talent. In Washington, too often people move around. We have a good record of people staying with us."

She rejected Mr. Wurzelbacher's contention that she was promoting paycheck equity as a political football.

"As the daughter of someone who served on the organizing committee of the original Champion Spark Plug union here in Toledo, the issue of decent pay and pay equity is not something that I just stumbled over," Miss Kaptur said. "This is not some chance preoccupation for the purpose of the campaign."

Contact Tom Troy at: tomtroy@theblade.com or 419-724-6058.



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