Oberweis, Durbin tangle on gender pay equity

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GOP Senate candidate Jim Oberweis is injecting the issue of staffer gender pay equity into his uphill battle against Sen. Dick Durbin D-Ill.  However, by doing so, he opened the door for Durbin to question, as he did on Wednesday, the hiring practices at Oberweis’ dairy and investment firms.

Durbin said at a press conference that the very top spots at Oberweis investment firms are almost all held by men.

“Mr. Oberweis has been careful not to disclose any information about the payroll of Oberweis Dairy” or the Oberweis investment funds and “we have disclosed everything,” Durbin said.

Of the four trustees of The Oberweis Funds, there are three males and one female. (One of them is Oberweis.) The five officers of The Oberweis Funds are all male.

There is no public information available about the hiring practices at Oberweis Dairy, Inc., where Oberweis is the chairman. There is some public information about staffing at the Oberweis investment firms.

Let’s sort some of this out.

Oberweis on Monday opened a new front against Durbin.

Oberweis  accused Durbin in a press release of paying his top two staffers in Illinois – one man, one woman – different salaries asserting, based on the titles, that the work was equal.

Oberweis said in the release – and recapped during a Tuesday City Club speech –  Durbin’s record on gender pay equity is “abysmal” because the man, Bill Houlihan, is earning more than the woman, Clarisol Duque, and has done so for several years.

Every Senate office – no matter the party – has to disclose salary information for each staffer.

I am guessing Oberweis is making the pay accusation to try to hold down the female Durbin vote.

But in so doing, Oberweis leaves himself politically exposed because his firms employ a lot of people.

The companies Oberweis created hired over 1,200 new workers, according to Oberweis campaign literature. And unlike a transparent Senate office, it’s hard to know if a private company has glass ceiling or pay equity issues.

Oberweis spokesman Dan Curry said Durbin raising questions about Oberweis hiring practices was a “deflection.”

A table turning “deflection?” That’s what campaigns do. Durbin’s move to go after Oberweis on gender hiring and pay equity was entirely predictable.

“Once we get a straight answer from Dick Durbin that squares with the facts, we will be glad to answer his deflection questions,” Curry said.

The Oberweis argument rests on the assertion that Houlihan and Duque are doing the same job and have done so over time. Durbin said that’s not true.

Their titles are similar but their jobs are and have been different, Durbin said. Houlihan is Durbin’s state director. A few years ago his title was Downstate director. Duque is the Chicago director. At present, Houlihan earns $169,459 and Duque is paid $160,000.

According to the federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, “The Equal Pay Act requires that men and women in the same workplace be given equal pay for equal work. The jobs need not be identical, but they must be substantially equal. Job content (not job titles) determines whether jobs are substantially equal.”

Staffing levels fluctuate between Durbin’s Chicago, Springfield, Carbondale and Rock Island Offices. At present, the Chicago office has 12 staffers. There are 13 staffers in the other offices, according to Durbin’s Washington Senate office.

Durbin said “there was a difference in pay” between Houlihan and Duque because of a difference in responsibility and background.

At present, “Clarisol reports to Bill,” said Durbin Senate spokesman Ben Marter. Duque became Chicago director in 2010. Houlihan has been state director—overseeing all four Durbin offices—since 2013.

Even before that, Durbin said that Houlihan had more responsibilities than Duque.

The experience each brought to the job is different. Houlihan joined the Durbin staff as a seasoned professional Congressional staffer. Duque worked her way up from an entry-level position, Durbin said.

Here’s the current bigger picture on Durbin current payroll:

DURBIN’S TOP TEN STAFF SALARIES: Six females, four males.

  1. Chief of Staff Pat Souders, $169,459
  2. State Director Bill Houlihan, $169,459
  3. Legislative Director Dena Morris, $160,000
  4. Chicago Director Clarise Duque, $160,000
  5. Counsel Mara Silver, $120,000
  6. National Security and Foreign Policy Advisor Chris Homan, $115,000
  7. Senior Advisor and Projects Director Tom Kotarac, $115,000
  8. Director of Operations, Sally Brown-Shaklee, $110,000
  9. Floor Director Reema Dodin, $110,000
  10. Speech Writer Molly Rowley, $106,050
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