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Politics & Government

Chelsa Wagner Calls on County to Pay Women Equally as Wage Argument with Opponent Continues

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Deanna Garcia
/
90.5 WESA

To mark National Equal Pay Day, Allegheny County Controller Chelsa Wagner called on the county to ensure women are paid equally to men for the same jobs.

“Nationally we know that women are compensated 77 cents on the dollar for every dollar a man makes, and that’s for the same work” said Wagner. “In the Pittsburgh area, it’s even worse where you have women compensated 74 cents for every dollar a man makes.”

Wagner said the gap is even larger for women of color. She is currently running for re-election; her challenger is former County Controller Mark Patrick Flaherty. Wagner said when she took office she immediately worked to address disparities in pay and a lack of women in management positions. She said it was an issue when she took over and added that Flaherty did not want to participate in a study on the topic before he left office. Flaherty said that’s because his office had already addressed it.

“My very first year in office we studied how some of the female supervisors were not getting paid as much as the male supervisors, and we remedied that while I was in office, and we actually called on the county human resources department to do that on a county-wide basis as well,” said Flaherty.

Wagner and Flaherty are at odd over compensation, namely cost of living increases. Flaherty did not accept annual cost of living increases when he was in office, so his pay was $66,500 when he left office. His campaign is accusing Wagner of putting her own interests before the taxpayers.

“Her very official first act when taking office was she took the cost of living adjustments and increased her pay by 35 percent,” said Flaherty.

Wagner did raise her compensation by rolling the un-claimed cost of living increases into her salary and has accepted cost of living increases each year since. This, she said, puts her on level footing with other county row officers such as the treasurer and sherriff.

“I believe that women, as well as any employee, should be fairly compensated for the job that they are doing,” she said.

Wagner added that her overall compensation is still less than other male row officers because she does not use a county vehicle nor does she use the county health insurance plan. Wagner issued direct questions to County Executive Rich Fitzgerald, who supports Flaherty, including whether all row officers should be paid at the lower $66,500 rate or if that only applies to her. She asked Flaherty if he’d accept that pay and a county car and health insurance. Flaherty said, if elected, he would not accept a county car.

Wagner pledged that if Fitzgerald and Flaherty agree that the pay for all row officers should be $66,500, and the pay is rolled back for her and her male counterparts, she would “change my pay rate tomorrow.”

Wagner, Treasurer John Weinstein and Sherriff Bill Mullen are paid $96,580 annually; the Allegheny County district attorney is paid at a rate established by state law. Wagner noted that there are 61 Allegheny County employees making more than $96,580 — 47 are men, 14 are women.