Pay-gap controversy fuels scrap after article by Barber

2014-05-01T00:00:00Z 2014-05-27T13:49:30Z Pay-gap controversy fuels scrap after article by BarberBy Joe Ferguson Arizona Daily Star Arizona Daily Star

A fight over how much women are paid compared to their male counterparts has reached a fever pitch in the Congressional District 2 race.

The heart of the argument isn’t about the proposed political solutions to address the wage disparity between the sexes, but the mathematical formulas used to calculate the gap.

Both Republicans and Democrats charge that the other party is using flawed math to back its underlying arguments.

The Republican National Congressional Committee fired the first shot complaining about bad math shortly after an Op-Ed piece by Rep. Ron Barber in the Star April 15, saying it was “inexcusable” that women were still being paid less than their male counterparts more than a half-century after joining the workforce.

Barber’s piece relied heavily on a statistic used by the White House, comparing the median salaries of all men working full-time for a full year to their female counterparts.

The RNCC used the same math with Barber’s congressional staff, calculating the disparity for the 10 employees working in his office last year full-time for the entire year

The NRCC says that using the White House formula, it found that the Tucson Democrat is not paying his female staffers as much as their male counterparts.

Barber is paying women roughly $8,950 a year less their male counterparts, said NRCC Regional Political Director Annie Kelly.

“Ron Barber should be ashamed,” said Kelly. “If Barber truly believes this is how to measure gender inequality in the workforce, shouldn’t initiatives to close the gender gap start in his own office?”

Barber campaign spokeswoman Ashley Nash-Hahn said the Republicans are the ones using fuzzy math, choosing to cherry-pick which staffers to include in their underlying analysis.

Releasing data for the equivalent of 21 full-time employees — 13 women and eight men — found that women earned about $5,874 a year more than their male counterparts.

Barber has 16 full-time employees working in his three congressional offices.

Both sides use the strategy outlined by the White House comparing median salary information collected by the U.S. Census Bureau. However, the Barber campaign calculated the figure by including staffers who worked in his office for less than a year.

RNCC officials argue they are not manipulating the numbers, but simply applying the same national standards used by the Obama administration.

Currently, Barber’s three highest-paid staffers are women.

Jennifer Cox, Barber’s chief of staff, makes the most, collecting $107,400 annually. Cox is also largely responsible for hiring and salary decisions in Barber’s congressional office.

The RNCC says Barber — who continues to discuss the issue while campaigning — should retract his Op-ed piece since it is based on a flawed figure.

Nash-Hahn said the partisan attack is designed to distract voters from the underlying issue and stands by Barber’s support for the Paycheck Fairness Act.

“Ron Barber will not waver in his support for equal pay for equal work, because it’s a serious issue in our economy,” said Nash-Hahn. “Women earning less than men is a fact based on analysis of millions of people in our workforce, and it hurts middle-class families across America.”

Contact reporter Joe Ferguson at jferguson@azstarnet.com or 573-4346. Follow him on Twitter @JoeFerguson

Copyright 2014 Arizona Daily Star. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Activate

Follow the Arizona Daily Star