Reid: If Jill Abramson story is true, ‘perfect example’ of why pay parity bill should pass

Senate Majority Leader Harry M. Reid (D-Nev.) used the ouster of the top editor of the New York Times to suggest Thursday that Congress needs to take up legislation that would ensure that women are paid on par with male counterparts.


Former New York Times managing editor Jill Abramson, photographed in April 2010. (Evan Agostini/AP)

During his weekly news conference, Reid was asked about reports that Jill Abramson, former executive editor of the New York Times, was pushed out in part because she confronted top executives about being paid less than her male predecessor, Bill Keller.

"Yeah, I saw that," Reid said. "I don't know if — I don't know how much validity there is to that. But there — stories are out today that she raised questions about why she was being paid less for doing the same job that the second-in-command was and certainly now her predecessor got a lot more money than she got."

"If it's true — and I don't know that it is — it's a perfect example that is true why we should pass fair paycheck equities — fairness," he said later.

Reid had made a similar point about Abramson’s fate and the Democratic-backed legislation earlier Thursday during his opening remarks on the Senate floor.

In April, Senate Democrats fell short of the votes needed to advance the "Paycheck Fairness Act," a measure that would have made it illegal for employers to retaliate against a worker who inquires about or discloses her or his wages or the wages of another employee in a complaint or investigation. It also would make employers liable to civil actions. The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission would have been required to collect pay information from employers.

Executives at the Times have strongly disputed several reports that Abramson was fired this week in part because she raised concerns about her compensation. In a memo distributed to staffers Thursday, Times publisher Arthur Sulzberger Jr. said that Abramson's pay was "comparable to that of earlier executive editors" and that the issue of pay was not a factor in her dismissal.

“Compensation played no part whatsoever in my decision that Jill could not remain as executive editor," Sulzberger wrote to staffers. "Nor did any discussion about compensation. The reason — the only reason — for that decision was concerns I had about some aspects of Jill’s management of our newsroom, which I had previously made clear to her, both face-to-face and in my annual assessment."

Ed O’Keefe is a congressional reporter with The Washington Post and covered the 2008 and 2012 presidential and congressional elections.
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