(CNSNews.com) - While Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama has vowed to make pay equity for women a top priority if elected president, an analysis of his Senate staff shows that women are outnumbered and out-paid by men.
That is in contrast to Republican presidential candidate John McCain's Senate office, where women, for the most part, out-rank and are paid more than men.
Obama spoke in Albuquerque, N.M. last week about his commitment to the issue and his support of a Senate bill to make it easier to sue an employer for pay discrimination.
"Mr. McCain is an honorable man, we respect his service. But when you look at our records and our plans on issues that matter to working women, the choice could not be clearer," Obama told the audience in New Mexico, a voter-swing state. "It starts with equal pay. Sixty-two percent of working women in America earn half or more than of their family's income. But women still earn 77 cents for every dollar earned by men in 2008. You'd think that Washington would be united it its determination to fight for equal pay."
He continued, saying that he is proud to have supported the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Restoration Act, which would extend the limit on how long an employee can wait before suing an employer for pay discrimination.
The legislation was named after Lilly Ledbetter, who was a supervisor at Goodyear Tire & Rubber's plant in Gadsden, Ala. She sued for pay discrimination before retiring after 19 years because she had made $6,500 less per year than the lowest paid male supervisor.
However, the U.S. Supreme Court threw out her case, saying she waited too long to file a complaint. The court said that under the 1964 Civil Rights Act, an employee must sue within 180 days of a decision regarding pay if alleged discrimination is involved. The bill sought to change the law, but Democrats could not muster the needed 60 votes to override a Republican filibuster.
Obama voted for the equal pay litigation bill in April. McCain was campaigning that day and did not vote. But he has expressed opposition to the legislation, fearing it would open the door to too much litigation.
On average, women working in Obama's Senate office were paid at least $6,000 below the average man working for the Illinois senator. That's according to data calculated from the Report of the Secretary of the Senate, which covered the six-month period ending Sept. 30, 2007. Of the five people in Obama's Senate office who were paid $100,000 or more on an annual basis, only one -- Obama's administrative manager -- was a woman.
The average pay for the 33 men on Obama's staff (who earned more than $23,000, the lowest annual salary paid for non-intern employees) was $59,207. The average pay for the 31 women on Obama's staff who earned more than $23,000 per year was $48,729.91. (The average pay for all 36 male employees on Obama's staff was $55,962; and the average pay for all 31 female employees was $48,729. The report indicated that Obama had only one paid intern during the period, who was a male.)
McCain, an Arizona senator, employed a total of 69 people during the reporting period ending in the fall of 2007, but 23 of them were interns. Of his non-intern employees, 30 were women and 16 were men. After excluding interns, the average pay for the 30 women on McCain's staff was $59,104.51. The 16 non-intern males in McCain's office, by comparison, were paid an average of $56,628.83.
The Obama campaign did not respond to written questions submitted on the matter Thursday by Cybercast News Service .
During his Albuquerque speech, Obama criticized McCain for supporting the Supreme Court ruling on the pay-equity issue.
"Sen. McCain thinks the Supreme Court got it right," Obama said. "He opposed the Fair Pay Restoration Act. He suggested that the reason women don't have equal pay isn't discrimination on the job - it's because they need more education and training. That's just totally wrong."
Obama continued, "Lilly Ledbetter's problem was not that she was somehow unqualified or unprepared for higher-paying positions. She most certainly was and by all reports was an excellent employee. Her problem was that her employer paid her less than men doing the exact same work."
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