Male employes of the District government are paid an average of $6,013 to $10,424 more per year than female employes, a top labor official testified yesterday during a City Council hearing on a bill aimed at promoting pay equity.
"We believe that this outrageous situation exists not because the city overtly discriminates," said Joslyn N. Williams, president of the Metropolitan Washington Council (AFL-CIO), "but because its methods of evaluating jobs and deciding what salaries are to be paid to those jobs have historically undervalued those job categories whose occupants happen to be women."
As a result, Williams said, male janitors and electricians are paid more than female keypunch operators and registered nurses.
The salary figures cited by Williams were derived from his labor organization's analysis of statistics supplied by the D.C. Office of Personnel. However, Barry administration officials testified that there is no substantial evidence that the city's method of paying its employes discriminates against women.
Proponents of the concept of comparable worth contend that jobs dominated by women are systematically underpaid because of sex discrimination and that wages for such jobs ought to be increased to equal those of men holding jobs of comparable skill and responsibility.
Under a bill introduced by Council member Charlene Drew Jarvis (D-Ward 5), the city would hire a consultant to conduct a study of wage-setting practices, identify ways to eliminate discriminatory practices and recommend additional remedial legislation. In addition, a pay equity task force would be established to determine whether there are female-dominated classes for which salaries should be increased.
City officials said they agreed with the general thrust of the proposal, but raised objections to numerous provisions of the bill.
Maudine R. Cooper, director of the D.C. Office of Human Rights, testified that the bill "begins with the presumption" that the District's current method for classifying employes is discriminatory while "there is no evidence to support this conclusion."
Cooper recommended that action on the legislation be delayed until the Barry administration conducts a "self-analysis" to examine the issues of pay equity and comparable worth. If necessary, she said, the mayor would appoint a task force to develop a plan for revising the city's classification system or adjusting salaries.
Representatives of labor and women's groups dominated the hearing, jointly held by the Government Operations and Housing and Economic Development Committees, and overwhelmingly supported the bill.
Others who testified stressed that the council should determine whether race is also a factor in the salary classification for government employes.
The U.S. Commission on Civil Rights and the federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission both have rejected the concept of comparable worth. Yesterday, union representatives said they expect action from the District government in support of the concept.
"We believe that the council and the mayor, in stark contrast to the Reagan administration, are committed to economic opportunity and vigorous enforcement of and strict compliance with the federal civil rights laws," said Marilyn DePoy, women's rights coordinator for the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees .