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: A multitude of problems in Arizona

Enjoy the following:

Subject: payroll/wages and hours/overtime; proxies, etc./data integrity v. pr-driven deadlines

Message Body:
Denials of overtime claims similar to those reported in Houston (Monday’s
post) – coupled with demands to actually work as long as necessary to meet
artificial deadlines and the resultant spillover of hours into the next pay period -
have occurred in  the Phoenix area.  Other responses to the deadlines, some
potentially affecting data reliability, have included directives to change field
procedures (e.g.: seek a proxy on first unsuccessful visit; complete interviews on
the basis of very limited data from proxies; etc.).  The pressures for sudden wrap
up of Census tasks – usually at the eleventh hour – have coincided with pending
local office visits from the regional office, and have increased in intensity as
close-out (and visit) dates neared, resulting in multiple, contradictory directives
from day-to-day and even within a single day.  As a result, both all or most
non-response followup interview and re-interview (“quality” assurance) closure
deadlines have been met ahead of their original schedules.  The question of data
reliability, however, remains open but usually unasked.  It sure as hell has felt like
pressure from the top downwards to finish by or ahead of deadlines and under
budget, presumably to deflect increasing public scrutiny of past delays, computer
problems, mapping errors, etc.).  Whatever the cause, it has not been pretty.

And more from the same person:

Well, four new reinterview (“RI”) enumerators have joined our QA (aka “RI”) crew for a total of 16 – or 15 (see below) -, reputedly because,
having been trained (and paid for going through 40 hours of training), they MUST be utilized.  The rub is that our original 12-person team
has not had enough cases referred to us over the past 2-and-a-half weeks in the field to satisfy each of our minimum 20-hour work week
“requirement.”  Reputedly (this is what the mid-level echelon tells us), the new crew members were trained in anticipation of enumerator attrition that has not occurred.  Nonetheless, apparently, the new enumerators must be employed now, despite the fact that the reason they were hired and trained (at taxpayer expense) has not materialized, and despite the further fact that there isn’t sufficient work even for those of us who were trained three weeks ago.  Also, reputedly (we’re ALL mushrooms in this cellar!), training of new RI enumerators is STILL ongoing, and we can expect more new crew members next week.

I should add that one of our enumerators has been promoted to “crew leader assistant” status; so, we now have a ratio of 1 leader or
assistant leader to every 5 enumerators.  Thus, our enumerator crew actually is 15, formerly 12: 12 -1 + 4 = 15.

What does a crew leader or crew leader assistant do?  Mostly sit in fast food and storefront restaurants 5 hours per day and fill out
paperwork or, lacking that (something NONE of us often lack) just shoot the shit, so that we all can log our minimum 20-hours per week (just
by attending meaningless meetings!) while the actual casework dribbles out at a slower rate than BP’s rate of contained oil per day.

Oh, yah, and some of us use meeting time to (still) “project” our hours and mileage at essentially mid-day each weekday workday, so
that our CL and CLA’s can get the daily pay logs into Payroll early enough to keep them happy.  They appear to be the only OVER-worked
Census workers in Central Arizona these days!  Meanwhile, the trainees keep on comin’.  The casework does not.  Meanwhile, I still wonder,
when does “projection” become falsification?  But, sadly, I’m caring less these days.  I know that I will not – ULTIMATELY – claim unworked hours; but I also KNOW that shit rolls downhill.

I hasten to add that I respect our CL totally.  But, like us all, that person’s caught in what increasingly appears like a shabbily jerry-rigged
system.

As far as an “actual count”???

So, why is there no work? Reputedly (mushroom factor again) because the outsourced PBOX or PBACHS or Whatever computer system
server can’t support the volume of LOC logins per day nationwide.  So, if that’s true, the problem is nationwide and worthy of a Proxmire Golden Fleece Award, for those of us old enough to remember.

But, hey, I’m just a happy mushroom in these economically troubled times.  Pity the Gulf of Mexico’s nesting birds!  Pity the U.S. taxpayers!
Technically, we are a crew, now, of 15 enumerators and 3 administrators (crew leader and 2 crew leader assistants).  We have no cases to work
and the food at Denny’s sucks but, in the afternoon, we meet someplace with bagels, bean dip or baklava!

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7 Responses to “Daily Sound Off: A multitude of problems in Arizona”

  1. Sunshine CL Says:

    Does anyone think that these issues are confined to Arizona? I imagine that data reliability is questionable nationwide. The inability to accurately predict workload and adjust staffing is remarkable, and is often due to inexperienced managers in the upper echelons coupled with “incentives” to be the first RCC done. Most amazing for a federal agency are the vast number of wage and hour violations (hours required to be worked but not allowed to be declared). If this happened in private industry heads would roll but for the Census it’s just business as usual.

  2. Anonymous Says:

    I don’t get it.

  3. DairylandCL Says:

    Proxmire was my homey — hair plugs, jogging and all. Another award this census qualifies for is Rowan and Martin’s Flying Fickle Finger of Fate. Great article here. Thanks.

  4. census lackey Says:

    I wish we had issues like these! After our training week in April, no one on my QA team has had more than 10 hours in a week, including meetings! Our LCO told us for weeks and weeks that work would be coming. Then they had us turn in our badges and bags a couple weeks ago, saying the project was being shut down. A week later, they called our CL to ask if we could do some work. We had 1 week of work, and they have taken our badges and bags again. We had no minimums. I wish we did, since we have had so few hours through this whole thing.

  5. SunandFun Says:

    How does 1 person (looks like an enumerator) represent a multitude of problems in a state with 10 LCOs? Good thing this site does not claim to be of journalistic value or integrity.

  6. anonymous Says:

    SunandFun, same story in my area.

    Great article!

  7. Anonymous Says:

    Same story in my area as well. It’s been a complete clusterf@ck.