My Two Census

Formerly the non-partisan watchdog of the 2010 US Census, and currently an opinion blog that covers all things political, media, foreign policy, globalization, and culture…but sometimes returning to its census/demographics roots.

Daily Sound Off: The Chicago Enumerator

Here’s today’s Daily Sound Off:

May 26, 2010

I am an enumerator/Census taker in Chicago and this is my story of working for the U.S. Census Bureau over the past month.

My CLD has never had enough address binders for each of the approximate 15 enumerators working for it.  During training, some binders were split up, while a lucky few got a whole binder, me included.  However, the majority of my addresses were in a federally subsidized Section 8 building, where office staff refused me access and would not return my crew leader’s calls. The lower income families residing in this building need to be counted the most for funding, etc., especially since their housing is federally funded, but staff has been unfortunately uncooperative thus far.  I should have moved onto a new binder after the first week of work, but my CLD received only a handful more of binders during that first week and none since.

My CLD is now in the fourth week of work and has not received any new binders, despite my crew leader promising us new binders 2.5 weeks ago, at one point even telling us the day on which we would receive them!  At a meeting 1.5 weeks ago, she told us matter-of-factly that one of the reasons we weren’t receiving more work was because we had too many old EQ forms coming back with mistakes because she had failed to review them before she submitted them!  Forms are being corrected, addresses revisited, at what point have we submitted enough work to get new work?  Why are individuals who have finished their work forced to wait for others who have not?  Why are enumerators suffering for a crew leader’s mistakes?

It sure seems like crew leaders, others in supervisory positions, and those working in offices are putting in plenty of hours dealing with the mess and confusion of the 2010 Census, wasting taxpayers’ money, but many enumerators are barely able to put it any hours, when we are the ones supposed to be collecting data that IS the Census!  The work is not filtering down to us at the bottom of the bureaucracy.  I haven’t worked in the field for a week now, every week I have worked fewer and fewer hours, never near the 20 hours per week I was told to expect during training.  The most hours I ever put in was for training, inadequate training at that!

My crew leader decided to hold an additional training session after the second week to demonstrate common mistakes we had made on our EQs, when they could have easily been corrected if she had actually reviewed them like she is supposed to!  In fact, she said she was instructed to start writing enumerators up for mistakes, when they are the result of inadequate training and crew leader oversight!  I would also like to note that my crew leader chooses to meet during meal times at a McDonalds crowded with crack heads, not the most appropriate environment.

It is apparent that my crew leader is poorly trained and cannot answer many questions posed to her about Census policies and procedures.  Another example of this: Pay.  My crew leader signed off on several pay sheets I had filled out for training where I claimed 30 miles, which is what I drove round-trip to and from work.  I subsequently received a call from my LCO informing me that I was not allowed to claim those miles.  I talked to a supervisor, who informed me that if she signed off on those miles, she could be terminated from her job.  I told her that my crew leader had seen the miles and even said I would be reimbursed for them, and the supervisor at my LCO told ME to inform HER that enumerators can only claim mileage from home to work (which it turns out is IN the Enumerator Manual) and that it would be trouble for me if the pay sheets with 30 miles were submitted!  It was extremely inappropriate and strange to be threatened with responsibility for the termination of a LCO supervisor and the implication of my termination as well!  Once again, because of my crew leader’s severe ineptitude and inadequate training, the little guy at the bottom of the hierarchy gets the stick, thanks federal government.

The supervisor at my LCO told me that my pay sheets with the mileage would have to be sent back by courier to my FOS so that I could redo them.  Of course my FOS never received them.  I called the LCO supervisor again and at first she could not find any record of what had happened to my pay sheets.  She then discovered that someone had approved the miles!  For what she previously made out to be a serious violation of procedure, she laughed about it and seemed to want to chit chat with me.  I felt like she may have been drinking that night I talked to her.  Apparently, no one knows the mileage enumerators can claim and are approving reimbursements they shouldn’t be, wasting more taxpayer dollars!

My crew leader instructed us during training not to keep the duplicate copy of our pay sheets because they would be mailed back to us.  I double-checked this, unfortunately with the same supervisor at my LCO that I mentioned previously.  She also explicitly instructed me to submit both copies together.  However, one of my family members also working as an enumerator said everyone in her CLD was keeping their pay sheet copies.  I checked the Enumerator Manual and it explains that the copy is to keep.  I called Payroll to see what they had to say about this conflicting information, and the guy I spoke to advised me to keep the copy, but that the issue was up to crew leaders’ discretion!  Clearly, no one is aware of their own policies!  Surely, I have the right to keep the copy of my original work records!  I just keep the copy now, since there is no one clear directive.  This is just one instance of several, where I have received contradictory information from my crew leader or LCO versus what is written in the Enumerator Manual.  This whole operation is either incredibly inept, corrupt, or both.

Today, in the fourth week of field work, I called my LCO to ask when/if we are getting new binders, after being promised them for at least 2.5 weeks now.  The woman I spoke to said I shouldn’t be calling the LCO and that I should ask my crew leader, meaning that I must not step out of line in the hierarchy.  I explained that my crew leader and FOS clearly do not what is going on and do not have answers to my questions, so that was why I was calling the LCO.  She said it was too bad that was my situation, but that she could do “ABSOLUTELY NOTHING” for me.  I quote.  I asked if she was not allowed to give me information regarding the issuance of new binders, but that did not seem to be the case.  She just refused to give me any information and told me she had talked to my FOS earlier in the day.  Don’t step out of line if you are on the bottom, know your place, and don’t ask questions if you work for the Census!

I am stuck talking to those directly above me who also know nothing.  I called my FOS today and she said she didn’t think we would be getting new binders.  She said we could be reassigned to another FOS, but she would check to make sure and call me back.  She always sounds sleepy and bewildered, I will probably have to call her back instead and lord knows if she will be any more informative.  I have been waiting for at least 2.5 weeks now, barely getting any hours in, on the promise of new binders, only to hear that there may not be any coming, and that my only chance for more work is to be reassigned four weeks in!

Two months and 20 hours per week I wish!  I was depending on this job for extra income this summer and it has amounted to barely anything, just waiting and hoping for work, rather than actually working, and trying to keep tabs on others’ incompetence.  Thanks for paying me to be trained for a job I barely even got to do federal government! OUTRAGEOUS.  The 2010 Census is such a poor reflection on the U.S. government, can’t we do better than this?


28 Responses to “Daily Sound Off: The Chicago Enumerator”

  1. CLA Dave Says:

    What’s *really* scary is: Compared to the Defense Dept, the Census Bureau is a marvel of efficiency.

  2. lagirl Says:

    Thanks for sharing your story. Seems like you have tried everything. I only have a couple other ideas: ask to be transferred to another crew ( though it may be too late); ask if you can help out in the LCO and get hours; ask your crew leader to recommend you for the next phase.

  3. Anonymous Says:

    Windy City Enumerator, I believe you!!!

  4. AnonCLA Says:

    “It is apparent that my crew leader is poorly trained and cannot answer many questions posed to her about Census policies and procedures… I told her that my crew leader had seen the miles and even said I would be reimbursed for them, and the supervisor at my LCO told ME to inform HER that enumerators can only claim mileage from home to work (which it turns out is IN the Enumerator Manual)”

    Page 3-13 of D-590:
    Mileage-All miles you travel… from your home to the training site or your job assignment area AND THE RETURN TRIP…

    Your CL was right and your LCO was wrong.

    The enumerator manual (D-547) does NOT distinguish to and from miles. (See p. 2-7.)

  5. CLA Dave Says:

    The supervisor who said enumerators can only claim mileage from home to work needs some retraining.

  6. Yet Another Enumerator Says:

    While I sympathize with your plight, you probably coulda shortened your posting considerably:

    “My CL and FOS suck! and I can’t go over their heads at the LCO.”

    By the way, in case there’s still any doubt: yes, you’re supposed to get the copy of the 308 at the time you submit it to your CL or CLA.

    Good luck to you.

  7. Typical Government Says:

    As a CL, I feel your pain. With all things wrapping up on initial NRFU operations, I feel this was a poorly planned and executed exercise from the beginning. Too many levels of management (have you SEEN the organizational chart??) and even those managers argue about the proper course of action. CL’s were given a single week of training on how to train the enumerators, then expected to perform miracles in the field. It’s not brain surgery, people, but to the upper-level folks it’s like ‘let’s figure this out as we go, and hope to save our sorry butts for the next job that comes our way’.

    You’re also correct that ALL MILES are payable. Maybe not for the OFFICE STAFF, which was probably what they were thinking and had no clue (what else is new) as to what is done in the field!!

    I know we’re winding things up, but there’s been no communication as to what our cut-off day really is going to be. I’ve cut down my staff by 2/3 (I got WAY too many, most only had one binder to do) and they’re pissed because they made more in their training week than the rest of the month combined. So much for government work.

  8. LCO-AM Says:

    Enumerators home “port” is their home. I am 99% sure that they are paid any and all miles that they drive for work.

    Crew leaders and field FOS’s as well.

    Inside staff is not paid any mileage for getting to work. If they drive any mileage for the Census, they are reimbursed by the mile.

    I appreciate this thread, and it makes me feel very good about our LCO and our region, for all the flaws and weakness’s, we are light years ahead of what what mentioned by the enumerator in Chicago.

    Off that topic, the Census may of overhired and there is just not a lot of work for eveyone, if they has less people, there could of been more for each person – that is just a theory.

    Best to all

  9. LCO-AM Says:

    Oh, FYI, most of those issues mentioned by the Chicago enumerator should be answered in the manual given at training.

    I almost wonder if they were given their manual.

  10. Jay Says:

    Driving 3 miles each way to training is not exorbitant. I don’t understand the problem. On the other hand, if it was 30 miles a day in a small CLD, then that should be a problem.

  11. Show me the money Says:

    Another possibility is that you have been placed in “Stand Down” status. When in a crew leaders estimation there is a poorly performing Enumerator they just don’t give them anymore work. Then the avoid you for as long as possible. By the time you figure out what has happened they are releasing the entire crew because the job is done.

    My best day was when a FOS showed us what it was like talking to the management in the LCO. The FOS turned to the wall and asked it one of our questions. I am sure the wall gave us a much better answer than the LCO would have.

  12. PM Says:

    And here we go again… oh, that’s again, corrected to again by memo 12-95-9999999.

    What’s getting obvious to all I’m sure is the lack of cohesive foundation to this fondue. [e.g.- I used to get my 2nd pg of 308 at turn-in, but was advised that it should go whole through audit; returned to me after DAPPSing, so I'll know the corrections (clerk tells me too that sometimes they've had to whack off what was claimed OT due to miscalculation when filled in, skewing the whole tally downstream of it). What I do to keep an eye is make a xerox when turning in... but maybe that works for some, and maybe getting your copy right away does well for you...and maybe it's in some book- which is the point I'll hit now]:

    As we run out of oil in the ocean, would someone like to burn these myriad books instead, each written by someone with 8 arms while eating a 19 course dinner, and come up with…

    one that we can follow?

    D-503 was just shown me while I chatted w/stock person:

    page before: Expendable equipment such as pallet jacks, hand trucks…
    page after: Non Expendable Equipment: …. pallet jacks, hand trucks…

    (book was written over a six-century span; before the census count reached 4, these things grew like weeds, and were expendable… then we ate them all)


    …”Confidential Census Materials:

    Do not use the term *confidential*; this is only for matters affecting national security…”

    [But Dear D-503, you just said....]

    And if that weren’t ambiguous enough, we have that sticker: “Census- Confidential… This document contains information the release of which…..” … [would confuse the reader to death.]

    How about that training party verbatim:

    Now turn to Topic 5.3 in your *Manual*

    Now go to page 2-23 in your *Handbook*

    Now, in the exercise blah on page blah blah blah in your *Workbook*

    Or this one: turn to topic 5.3…… topic 2.7… topic 6.1….
    4.2…. blurrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr

    All this pretty stuff, jammed into a space on your desk 18″ a side.

    But there’s a beach ball on the HHC you can watch for awhile. And awhile…and…

    “Turn off your HHC so it can reset itself”

    “Don’t turn off your HHC- leave it on all the time…”

    Mine used to scare me when it would light up the room at 3 AM to do its juju. I’m turning it off.

    Back to class-

    “OK… any questions?”

    “Could you clarify…”

    “No, don’t bother me- ask the FOS when he comes in. We still have a lot to cover or we’ll all get canned…”

    “But you said to ask you anything.”

    “I know I did…. but don’t. I’m really busy here.”
    Memo: …”Send the Be Counted Boxes and D-12s Back to NPC”


    Next memo: …”DON’T send the Be Counted Boxes and D-12s back to NPC”

    Cohort at other LCO: “We had to send all ours back”

    Us: “You shoulda played another round of gin- we got the new memo and didn’t have to NYAAAAAAA.”

    It’s really a great place to work, if you just step back and have a good laugh. Think of Fritz Lang’s Metropolis mated to Escher’s Ascending and Descending- no, wait- that big sideways ‘E’ looking thing with the legs that look like spaces- working, and can’t possibly work, at once.

    Who put this together anyhow,


  13. Enumerate this Says:

    Back with another “flagging” question. My CL told me today that anyone who submits a time sheet with exactly eight hours for more than two or three consecutive days is being “flagged” for additional scrutiny. (I worked eight hours on Monday and Tuesday, and completed eight forms each day.) Is this true?

    I’m beginning to suspect my CL, who will be nice as one pie one day and Miss Crankypants the next, is making all this up to mess with me.

    If true, only the census would be suspicious of people who work eight hours a day.

  14. a noony mousse Says:

    PM, thanks for your opus. I needed a laugh!!

  15. Stephen Robert Morse Says:

    PM, you’re brilliant. I may repost that!

  16. donius Says:

    I believe it, I keep getting the run-around from my CL here in NY. So far I’ve done the training, and 2 cases… About 4 hours of work within 2 weeks for both cases. My CL keeps avoiding me – “Oh, I’m over here now, I’ll give you a call at this time…” He never calls. The 2 cases that I did were under observation from my CL, which I did perfectly fine. The FOS stressed much emphasis on handing in time-sheets ASAP, pref. the day after you’ve filled one out. I have time-sheets from May 21st, 22nd, 23rd that he has yet to collect from me.

    Another thing I noticed, I’m the youngest of the workers both office/enumerators for my LCO. I’m 23 years old, and feel like a baby around most of these ‘employees’. They hired one gentleman who is 84 years old to do enumerating in my area. 84!!! Most of the people I saw at my LCO were a bunch of retiree’s/vets that should be in florida by now. Instead the operation in this area is being run by grandma/grandpa.

  17. To Infinity and Beyond Says:

    Donius, call your CL and ask him if you can bring your D308s for 5/21 throught 23 to him immediately. Make sure you fill out a new D308 for time and mileage. Good luck! :)

  18. lcoAMR Says:

    There is a fine line between the quality of young vs older workers.
    Young, rarely have any work ethic choosing to milk the job and do little work, between talking on cell phones and taking smoke breaks, it’s a wonder anything gets done. Older workers especially 80 yrs old are sometimes beyond the age to follow directions or fail to comprehend the work assignment. They do seem to have a much better work ethic, showing up on time and working, sometimes very slowly, but WORKING. It’s a challenge at times getting things done but, I’ve had to fire more younger workers than any other work group.

  19. Enumerator123 Says:

    “Young, rarely have any work ethic choosing to milk the job and do little work, between talking on cell phones and taking smoke breaks, it’s a wonder anything gets done.”

    I’m a young person and my Crew Leader said I had the best numbers in our crew and that I do a very good job and he’s going to recommend me for the other operations this summer. Do all the young people in your area do a bad job or just some of them?

  20. Anonymous #11 Says:

    IcoAMR, I agree. However, work patterns vary from person to person.

  21. tlas Says:

    I’m about to be moved from one part of NYC, where I live, to another part of NYC. I kinda did ask for it but not really to over there. See, why should I continue visiting those same addresses where at least one threatens to punch me in the face? It makes no sense. I’ve written INFO-COMMs on certain addresses and the CLA’s gave them back to me! My goodness! Do I need to have a black eye or worse before somebody believes me?

    Then I read the horror stories about enumerators elsewhere and I fear for my life!

  22. end the census Says:

    PM you are so funny and so right on target with everything you say about this job. Thank you and Mr. Morse and everybody else who takes time to post comments here, it’s been a real comfort to me and I’m sure to other census workers too.

    I’m sad for the Chicago enumerator and all others who are suffering the worst aspects of this job. Happy moments are getting rarer. Glad to have any kind of a job though, but the mind games or whatever it is.
    Sometimes yes it really does seem like they’re just messing with us on purpose, to drive us crazy (or crazier?) maybe to make us give up and quit.
    I wonder if our speaking out will result in any real and lasting change in this (as somebody commented) combination of ineptitude and corruption.

  23. My Two Census » Blog Archive » Daily Sound Off: Instant Termination Says:

    [...] today’s Daily Sound Off: On 5/28 at 8:43 PM we in the Brooklyn Central LCO 2223 received frantic calls to turn in our [...]

  24. Hatta Rayga Says:

    whhhhoooo donius!

    I nmy area we have all ages working together. Its best when all ages show respect to the others. I. E. for you to be snarking on the 84 year old man and saying others should be in Florida shows us in print on the internet that you are opinionated and making age discriminatory remnarks in public and likely in your attitude.

    Get out!

    We want and need people who can work together and show respect. It isn’t about how old you are- it’s about how you handle the work and get along with others.

  25. Hatta Rayga Says:

    Grandpa and Grandma are smarter than you.

    You were supposed to turn in your 308s the day after working.

    Now you are over a week late!

  26. donius Says:

    How am I suppose to turn in my d-308′s when my CL is avoiding me?

  27. dora Says:

    does anyone know how much does Census reimburse for mileages that I drove from home to AA?

  28. dora Says:

    this is regarding California area