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St. Louis County Moves To Reduce Gender Pay Gap

Lisa Picker of the Women's Foundation of Greater St. Louis speaks at a press conference on Tuesday June 4, 2019, with St. Louis County Executive Sam Page.
Jason Rosenbaum I St. Louis Public Radio
Lisa Picker of the Women's Foundation of Greater St. Louis speaks at a press conference on Tuesday June 4, 2019, with St. Louis County Executive Sam Page.

Updated 9:50 p.m. with introduction of funding for body cameras —  St. Louis County Executive Sam Page is seeking to close a pay gap within county government between men and women.

And the Democratic official believes omitting one question could make a difference toward gender salary equity.

Page signed an executive order Tuesday that requires the director of administration and the director of division personnel to remove “from county employment applications inquiries regarding salary information, including wages, benefits, and other compensation for current and prior non-county employment.”

The hope of this move, Page said, is to reduce the pay gap between male and female employees within county government.

“By asking prospective employees their current or past salary, an employer can unintentionally lock an employee into a existing pay disparity,” Page said. “And that has to end.”

Page is also putting together a group of department directors to look into how the county could implement things like paid family leave, child care and a minimum-wage hike for county employees.

He acknowledged that some of these ideas will cost the county money, and added that there will have to be consultation with the St. Louis County Council.

“I think all good policy questions are limited in their scope by the financial impact,” Page said. “That’s what our budget is all about. Our budget is our priorities and a statement of our values. And we’re going to try and understand what that means for St. Louis County.”

Among the people who joined Page at the signing press was Lisa Picker, executive director of the Women’s Foundation of Greater St. Louis, who said the county “is taking a leadership role in our region for workplace equity and inclusion.”

“We hope that other employers will be inspired by your initiative to take similar action to support working women and families,” Picker said.

Page wants a report from the working group by Sept. 1.

The County Council’s presiding officer, Ernie Trakas, R-Oakville, praised Page on Tuesday for taking a measured approach to pay issues, and said he looked forward to reading the report.

Body camera funding

Also on Tuesday, the council introduced legislation to pay for body and dashboard cameras for the county police department.

The bill authorizes the county to spend nearly $3 million from a 2017 public safety sales tax increase to buy 350 dashboard and 500 body cameras. The contract with Georgia-based Utility Associates runs for three years, and includes data storage costs.

“These cameras will go a long way toward fulfilling our responsibility to the public for greater transparency from our police department,” Page told the council. “In addition, they are designed to improve situational awareness and officer safety.”

The county police ran a pilot body camera program in 2014, just after Michael Brown was fatally shot by a Ferguson police officer. They had been waiting on Proposition P sales tax money to expand the cameras to the entire force.

The council on Tuesday also moved to provide funding for the St. Louis Economic Development Partnership, whose previous director. Sheila Sweeney, pleaded guilty last month in connection with the pay-to-play scheme that brought down former county executive Steve Stenger.

Rachel Lippmann contributed reporting

Follow Jason on Twitter: @jrosenbaum

Send questions and comments about this story to feedback@stlpublicradio.org

Jason is the politics correspondent for St. Louis Public Radio.