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.

A former Census Bureau employee speaks out…

A letter from the Lake County Record-Bee has drawn our attention.  A former enumerator writes:

Hello, I am (or was) a census enumerator and wrote a letter to Dr. Groves, The chief director of the 2010 Census, however I am unable to find his address or e-mail address, so I wanted to share my thoughts with others. It’s about my recent experience with working for the census bureau.

If I could reach Dr. Groves I would tell him the following: Hello, Dr. Groves, this is enumerator No. 3749397 coming to you out of area No. 2714. CL No. 0504.

I have been searching for someone who could address my concerns regarding the way the completion of NRFU was handled; the employment status of most of us enumerators.

It would seem a majority of us were told we would be participating in the completion of what my crew leader called “phase two” and would not be out of a job come July 22. I myself even received an extension of said temporary employment in my mailbox just a few days thereafter, and therefore remained unconcerned with procuring another job, career or any such form of income, assuming I would be continuing onto the next phase of the census and would be rather busy in the following months.

Now, personally, I have not received any further communication from office No. 2714 in regards to my continued or discontinued employment, and have made several attempts to contact them, in which case they have simply told me to ask my crew leader, who did not have any information at all.”….”I have just called my crew leader worried, as my last check will be coming in the mail this Wednesday and it will simply not be enough to get us through the month, and she informed me that if I was not called on Friday I would not be working Monday. It appears the bureau had called and selected workers completely at random, much like some sort of sick lottery and I was simply unlucky. Despite receiving an extension and the assurance of my crew leader, and others, despite being a hard and dependable worker most unlike the rest of my team and despite pushing and waiting for some form of contact from the Census Bureau, I am now unemployed and yet, technically employed until Aug. 22 thanks to your worthless extension.”

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41 Responses to “A former Census Bureau employee speaks out…”

  1. anon Says:

    “It’s all part of the process, baby.”

    Think before you write, please. Lots of people are now unemployed.

  2. Sunshine CL Says:

    This is not an uncommon situation. Personally, I received an extension to August 8th, but was then downgraded (as were others) from CL to CLA and will be done by July 22. We received the same “explanation: – selection was totally random. It’s the same all over, I think.

  3. Dude Says:

    Since the Phase Two is about a third of the work of phase one, then they only need a third of the workers. The crew leaders should have recommended people they wanted to retain. When 66% are not going to be retained, thats just the way it goes.There was also a short time to get in touch with people so if you got a call and didnt return it within 24 hours, you were probably not hired because the next people on the list answered and it filled up quickly. We hired our entire phase two group in 48 hours.

  4. Dave Says:

    Re: “a majority of us were told we would be participating in the completion of what my crew leader called “phase two” and would not be out of a job come July 22.”

    Your CL should not have told you that. I don’t know where he got it, but I was also in 2714 and our CL told us personnel was being cut by 2/3 for VDC, so 1/3 of us *might* get more work. That’s how it worked out and four of us stayed on for VDC. (Which turned out to be only one week of work.)

  5. James Says:

    And field verification is only going to employ about two dozen. Long way from 14000 originally.

  6. OOS Says:

    Before making such sweeping, and, frankly, ignorant complaints, perhaps you should put some effort into understanding how the system works. First of all, the employment extension is standard and has nothing to do with any promises of continued work. They happen every two months like clockwork and their purpose is to ensure you are in “working status” and available for the next operation should you be selected. The order was likely processed days before and completely independent of your crew leader ever mentioning this “phase two.” This brings me to my next part of things you don’t know: your CL was not in a position to promise you this work. “Phase two,” officially known as NRFU vacant delete check (VDC) is, to the best of my knowledge, anywhere from 5% to 20% of the total NRFU caseload (in my area, anyway) and therefore requires a mere 5-20% of the enumerators. Crew leaders were definitely not the ones making the call of who did and did not continue, as many didn’t move on themselves.

    You act as if some great injustice has been dealt to you by not being randomly (emphasis on that particular word) selected for NRFU VDC. Who are you to say that any of the people who were are undeserving of the position? I had the unhappy job of making some of those termination phone calls and know very well that a lot of good, strong workers were let go not for lack merit but for a true lack of work.

    As for being “employed” until August 22: you’re not. Any day now you’ll receive an SF-50 and an SF-8 in the mail, which you can use to file for unemployment. The same people who extended your employment terminated you days later when you weren’t randomly selected.

    Long story short: your anger is, while perhaps a natural reaction, completely unjustified. You knew when taking the job that the position was temporary and strongly dependent on the amount of finite work available. Grow up.

  7. CO Says:

    Very well worded OOS. An an office clerk, I feel fortunate to have each and every day of work – I’m not working because I necessarily need it but actually love the harworking people I work with. Nothing was ever promised to me and unfortunately, there will be those who didn’t really understand the word temporary.

  8. No Sense Census Says:

    OOS: Before making such statements you need to have knowlege of Field, (emphasis on that particular word), Work. If you are like the OOS’s in my district that replaced the trained OOS’s your little, if any knowlege of how people were supposed to be picked is flawed. My AMFO told me directly that the FOS’s and CL’s were to turn in lists of the people they thought were the best at the top of that list. Those they thought should not be put into the VDC project should be at the bottom with a note stating why. Such things as padding hrs. and miles, low or sloppy productivity, and complaints from respondents put you on the bottom of the list. The LCOM was the person who set the standards, informed the AMFO and so on. Who do you think was picked? Sorry you wouldn’t know would you! You would have been too busy eating popcorn and losing EQ’s and binders.

  9. No Sense Census Says:

    CO: That is just plain nausiating!!!!! How do you type and keep up the suction?

  10. SAM Says:

    As a former FOS I can tell you that this not only happened to 110 of my enumerators and some crew leaders, it happened to me. I was bumped out by another FOS who has the AMFO wrapped around her pinky finger. I worked my ass off for the Census for over 7 months as a job recruiter/examiner, crew leader, and FOS, and I did not even get a courtesy cal from my AMFO explaining why I was bumped out of a job in the VDC operation over newer less experienced fuck-ups. After NARFU was over the political games went into over-drive. The way the Census treats employees is just ridiculous!

  11. CO Says:

    @No Sense Census: I guess I just happen to be working at an office that appears, to me, to be functional. You might hear a different story from the CLs,CLAs and enumerators. I am just speaking from an office clerk point of view. We are a suburban office, not inner city. sorry…….

  12. CO Says:

    @No Sense Census: For the record, I am not a liberal but a conservative!!

  13. gopher Says:

    Why would you even tell the director the census about this . . . he has nothing to do with it.

  14. anonymous Says:

    Thanks for speaking up and glad MyTwoCensus ran this article. This is going on in every LCO and RCC.

  15. anonymous Says:

    Really? In every one? Every single one, nationwide?

    Do you think about the words you say & what they mean? Or do you just let them flow?

    In my CLD, we were told that our jobs were temporary. We were told that no one knew for sure about further employment, when NRFU ended. We were told that our employment status would remain active, to make things smoother if we were rehired for further operations, but not to count on anything until we heard from them. We were told that not everyone would be hired back for further operations & that they weren’t sure how it would be decided when the time came.

    So, I guess it isn’t, actually, going on in *every* LCO/RCC…

  16. Susan Says:

    The employees chosen to work for VDC in our area were not random. All the CLs were asked to rank their teams from best to worst and the higher-ups took it from there.

  17. No Sense Census Says:

    CO That explains it!
    anon 4:40 if you’re so sure please state the RCC you are in. Not worried about the LCO as the RCC runs them by intimidation and promising lackies further work. So if you have an RCC that is clean please let us know how they did it.

  18. anonymous Says:

    anonymous 7/19 @ 4:40 pm, you are entitled to your own opinions ….

  19. anonymous Says:

    “and therefore remained unconcerned with procuring another job, career or any such form of income, assuming I would be continuing onto the next phase of the census and would be rather busy in the following months.”

    There was definitely miscommunication about how the selection of the field staff for VDC would happen. But as it has been said over and over again this job is TEMPORARY. Why in the world wouldnt you be looking for a job the entire time you are employed with the census? We were told that the census could go until the end of September/early October and half the assistant managers in my LCO are being let go next week. So clearly the nature of the census is that things can change at a minutes notice. If you have worked for the census as diligently as you state than you would know how often things change and how quickly they move up deadlines. Get a real job and stop bitching about a temporary job.

  20. Still Working Says:

    I’m very sorry that the Former Enumerator who wrote this complaint either didn’t get accurate information… or didn’t understand the whole procedure.

    In our LCO, NRFU VDC consisted of a workload of about 15% of the Housing Units enumerated for NRFU. I was a Crew Leader for NRFU. As NRFU slowed down, we released many enumerators. We actually started releasing enumerators by mid-May. Some just did not have the time or the temperament to enumerate. We collected bags and materials from those who were no longer working and we made it clear that there was no more work for them.

    Our FOS asked us who we would recommend to continue for NRFU VDC, and each of the crew leaders came up with a list of 5-10 enumerators. This list was forwarded to the office. The enumerators who weren’t on the list were told that work was over for them. I told the enumerators who were on the list that their names had been forwarded to continue, but I didn’t know who would actually be chosen.

    As it turned out, the number of people chosen for NRFU VDC was about 10% of those involved in Field Ops for NRFU. After I saw the list for NRFU VDC, I called the non-chosen enumerators and told them that they wouldn’t be a part of VDC and that I didn’t know if there would be any future operations for them. I thanked them for their work and I collected their bags and materials.

    I never promised anyone work for NRFU VDC because I knew early on that only a few would be chosen. I always encouraged any enumerator to look for other work, to take more hours in other jobs, etc., because I knew how temporary their jobs with the Census were.

    I’m very sorry that the Former Enumerator was kept waiting. Census work is temporary. You simply can’t count on any more work than you have in your hand right at the moment… and even that might be taken from you.

  21. Pablo S. Says:

    @still working…Kudos for respecting your enumerators and giving them the straight scoop! That was even more professional than SAM (above poster) was treated as an FOS!!!!

    Did any of the enumerators ask you why they, specifically, were not selected for VDC while others were and, if so, what did you tell them? I would think we’d have to be very careful what we say in that situation.

  22. Pablo S. Says:

    @CO…I understand your statement “(I) actually love the harworking people I work with.”
    Amazing how diligent so many of the enumerators are (at least the ones I know). They take pride in their work, and consider it their mission to count our citizens. True professionals.

  23. TxEnum Says:

    @still working
    Very well put. That is exactly the way things were handled here. VDC is proving to be more challenging that NRFU and we have our best enumerators doing it. That’s the way it should be.

  24. W. R. Locke Says:

    What do the temporary Census workers expect? Most of the Supervisors couldn’t spell the word but now they are one. Permenant management operates like the epitome of the Peter Principle. Local management blames regional management, who blames central management in DC. There is so much money in the budget to be spent and the Census Bureau will spend it. Redundancy begets redundancy. The manual says only 3 personal visits, but now the managers are requiring 4 if you use a proxy. The fact that it was not a housing unit on April 1st, still isn’t a housing unit after 3 more verification visits, still requires the Census Taker to make one more visit before a Proxy is acceptable.

    And, one of the Census Takers worked Early/Earley and was reported as unreliable by his CL, was given another job during NRFU where he was reported as unreliable by his new CL, received another appointment to work VDC, where he is still unreliable by the third CL. This Census Taker reports between 30/40 hours a week, but his car rairly leaves his apartment parking space. At the Census Office you can threaten a lawsuit if you are not given a couple of EQ’s a week so you can make a career pretending to work.

    Since you get paid hours and mileage from the time you leave home until you get back home, what incentive does the Census Taker have to complete the job in a timely manner if he/she is working their way out of a job, while someone else is coasting along and sucking the system without fear of termination.

    The Census Bureau is your tax dollars at waste.

  25. Me too Says:

    I was an ennumerator for NRFO and also just finished the followup NRFU VDC.
    No real complaints except the sometimes daily rule changes probably added to the over all cost for the bureau and fustration of the CL’s..computer problems and policies that should have received a more through test run before being put in the field.

    Being in the rural south we were paid a lot less than most other parts of the country..$11.00 an hour….and we did work our butts off or at least I did. Tromping thru trailer parks in 98 degree heat, calling on houses back in the woods out of sight of civilization, sitting in your car trying to figure out how to get to the occupants door without being attacked by his dogs, stung by wasps in one case and eaten up by mosuqites while working until dark to complete a binder, crawling over gates to see if the house on the MS is really back there somewhere thru the tree leaves that weren’t in bloom when the map spoters mapped it….and then still having sometimes a hour’s drive to get back home from the boondocks…..LOL.
    Frankly, I put in a lot more time than I even put on my time sheets cause when I finally got home I had to go over all the EQ to make sure my printing was just so and all the right boxs checked off. I could have legitmately added at least another hour a day for that at home work.
    I finally did on this last go round start including my hour of prep and route mapping when I got new binders.
    I typically figured, by my work average, that the Census Bureau cost of completeing a EQ in my rural district was about $13.50 each, for my hourly wage and milage. I usually worked 6 to 8 sometimes 9 hours a day depending on how many binders I was given and how hard the CL was pushing and usually turned in 8 to 12 EQ’s a day if I was traveling a wide distance in the country side, as many as 16 in 8 hours if I was given some easy stuff in town.
    I’am retired and did it for extra money and enjoyed it really. Since my career was in sales and PR is was easy for me and not stressful to approach and interact with all kinds of people. I did somewhere around 500 + EQ’s so I estimate between interviewees and proxies and etc I probably talked over 600 people in 9 weeks. Amazingly, 99.9% of the people I talked to were nice and even helpful to me in locating other residences…I only remember 4 real a-holes out of all the people I contacted.

    Since I am 66, I think I’ll be too old to do this again in 2020! But hey the challange of the hunt and the mental and physical exercise was great and I lost 3 pounds.

  26. cheese Says:

    @me too – well put. the interaction with the community was nice, even if a few people were fake nice and quick to politely nudge you off their property. and then the rare a-hole at every 50th house.

    as far as the letter above, i understand the general point was to connect unemployment/applying for jobs/extensions.. but anyone who really expected the ‘temporary’ or ‘extension’ to really mean anything?

    here’s a word – naive.

  27. PATRIOT before PARTIES(Dem,Indep,Rep.) Says:

    Why are you complaining about a job that was temporary from the start, don’t make lack of work personal. All field operations employees are temporary, just like all ELCO’s, LCO’s, and RCC’. Apparently you were readily available to work for the census, which means you were unemployed, a retiree, or college student. Exceptional quality work stands out @ any agency. There are plenty of people that have worked their way from office clerk thru the ranks of enumerator, crew leader, FOS, OOS, AMR, AMFO, AMQA, LCOM, Area Manager and so on. During the FIRST DAY of ADMIN, you were informed to review your RED EMPLOYEE HANDBOOK, and review each of the documents for temporary employment.

    That being said the system is not perfect, but thats because humans are not perfect. If you’re currently unemploye and seeking a full-time Fed Job you should visit: http://www.usajobs.opm.gov You will find this is the portal of choice for citizens seeking a real federal job. If you work together and provide one another with good leads on jobs, you can achieve your goals. We all go through rough patches… Remember you didn’t get terminated because the initial job was temporary. Its easy to complain about the problem, but more challenging to propose a solution. Good Luck!

  28. Still Working Says:

    @Pablo: “Did any of the enumerators ask you why they, specifically, were not selected for VDC while others were and, if so, what did you tell them? I would think we’d have to be very careful what we say in that situation.”

    I knew why we came up with the list of candidates for NRFU VDC: They were the people who were most available and worked the hardest.. much like “me too” above. We wanted people who didn’t just turn work back and say “I can’t get this HU” over and over.. everybody had some EQ’s that they just couldn’t complete, but we wanted people who went the extra mile (literally and figuratively) to get those difficult EQ’s. I explained to the others who weren’t on the list that we had no more work for them. Nobody questioned that.

    To the people on the list who weren’t chosen by the LCO, it was easy: I don’t know. The office made the final picks, and that’s all that I knew.

  29. PoP Census Says:

    What exactly is an SF-8?

  30. SF Says:

    SF-8 is the document saying ‘no more work’, so you can apply for unemployment.

  31. Tammy Meyer Says:

    Enumerator No. 3749397

    “It would seem a majority of us were told we would be participating in the completion of what my crew leader called “phase two” and would not be out of a job come July 22. I myself even received an extension of said temporary employment in my mailbox…”

    OOS “your CL was not in a position to promise you this work…”

    To the enumerator: When you were phone interviewed and hired each time the clerk interviewing cannot and doesn’t promise work beyond 8 week increments and 8 weeks isn’t even a promise. It is worded verbatim so I know you were told this. It’s your bad if you solely relied on a temp job.

    To the OOS: Although CL’s, CLA’s, FOS’s aren’t in a position to promise work…things get said in the field even if they shouldn’t be said. I’ve corrected many incorrect comments made by field supervisors to their employees.

    That being said, this all reflects even more, one of my biggest complaints about Census operations. The training given to management personnel is sub-par to say the least. I think the verbatim field training works well enough but when the people managing the offices from the LCO management team to the AM’s and RT’s aren’t properly trained, things rapidly get out of hand. Information tumbles down and it’s worse than what 30 kindergartners end up with after playing the “telephone game”.

  32. Mary Beth Says:

    Can you get unemployment from the Census Bureau? I was told you could not.

  33. GEORGE WILBERG Says:

    OSS while your comments to me appear appropriate your attitude is not. You appear to be sympathetic but are not with comments like “ignorant” and “grow up.” As a stress counselor in the US Military for many years these are not “words” that you would use to create empathy with someone. And yes it is hard to let people go as a supervisor of a large office I had the unfortunate job of letting many people go during budget cuts or simply because they could not handle the work. A good post but flawed at the personal side. However, you did have a tough job and I do appreciate that. To conclude in your tenor of voice what “injustice” was done to you? With that I will tip my hat and say adieu.

  34. GEORGE WILBERG Says:

    SAM you are right on. Before I was a recruiter/examiner/tester and later an enumerator because for some reason they gave the CL job to a single young mom with a couple of screaming kids. Did she have any management experience-nope. But that aside later the political part of the job caused me to be terminated through in my opinion no fault of my own. My hat is off to you SAM for joining this blog and putting a “taste” of your experience here for others to see. Well done….

  35. GEORGE WILBERG Says:

    To Still Working-your case unfortunately is a rarity in the conduct of Census 2010. Most likely many of the blogs you may see here would not have been made if indeed the system worked such as you described. In my opinion and many others this is the “way” it should have worked. Lucky you!

  36. Tammy Meyer Says:

    Mary,

    Yes you can collect unemployment but it all depends on where you worked before, for how long, etc. You’ll have to look at the EDD in your area and extensively read the information.

    Typically they go back 18 months but DO NOT include the last quarter of earnings in their calculation so…If you haven’t worked in 18 months but worked the census for 8 weeks, you’re not going to be able to collect anything because there is nothing for you to collect from.

    Let’s say you worked Jan-Dec of 2009 for ABC Company and were laid off. In Jan 2010 you began working for the census and were laid off from there in Mar 2010. EDD won’t consider Jan-Mar of 10, they will look at the 18 months prior to that to calculate how much and if you can collect.

    So in that example you would collect unemployment based on your highest quarter of earnings at ABC Company. If you didn’t work at ABC Company you would have to wait to collect any unemployment earned from the Census…which wouldn’t be worth waiting for anyways because it’d end up being ~$20/week since you only worked for 3 months.

  37. I'll do the counting... Says:

    Quote “however I am unable to find his address or e-mail address, so I wanted to share my thoughts with others.
    If I could reach Dr. Groves”

    You’re just joking, right? If indeed you worked NRFU and were later asked to work NRFU-VDC how the heck could you admit to being “unable to find his address or e-mail address”? Dr. Groves is the Director of the U.S. Census Bureau which is part of the U.S. Department of Commerce which has a well developed web-site that just happens to have contact addressses as well as e-mail addresses. But you already knew this information since only a top-notch enumerator would be asked to work VDC. (or so I thought)

    Bottom line: If you can’t locate Dr. Groves…your CL certainly made a poor recommendation to VDC. As a properly trained enumerator you should be able to locate just about anybody given sufficient time. Locating Dr. Groves…give me 60 seconds – done!

  38. Tammy Meyer Says:

    Enumerator No. 3749397, “I am now unemployed and yet, technically employed until Aug. 22 thanks to your worthless extension.”

    I’m sure they processed another action which is: Termination>>>Lack of Work.

    Besides, you can still file for and collect unemployment, even if you believe you’re “technically employed”. As long as you’re not making any money unemployment will still pay you, provided you meet all of the requirements.

  39. Used to be a Crew Leader, glad I'm not now Says:

    I was told by our LCO in central Indiana that the people working were chosen because of how many hours they worked every week, and “NOT” by how good their work was. Evene though we crew leaders were asked to rank the best workers in order. My best workers were not called because most of my crew never worked over 30 hours a week. They were mostly retirees and part timers. I was demoted myself down to an enumerator. When I called the LCO to question said actions I was told “POINT BLANK” by the AMFO to “Keep my mouth Shut” and not to “Rock the Boat” or I would be fired. He also said I was “lucky” that he let them keep me on as it was.
    For you see, I was a verbal crew leader and kind of expressed my dissapointment and disbelief in how the enumerators were treated and how ludicrous all the daily changes were, especially when the changes were to be made one way one day and turned around again the next. The Census’ right hand has never (not since I have been employed by them anyway)
    known what the left hand is doing (and still doesn’t). It was and still is quite idiotic and a total mess. It is a complete waste of taxpayer’s time and money. The individuals they have running this dog and pony show are running it into the ground and making the “case” for every goverment doubter out there. If it is indicative of how our actual government is run, even one iota, then I feel so very sorry for us.

    And don’t even get me started on the waste of money that this moronic NRFU-VDC is………………..

  40. senseless bureau Says:

    I believe people have missed the point on the original post here. The problems is, with every job, you make a certain amount in a quarter to qualify for unemployment benefits, however, if you try to file your unemployment claim, you are not going to get it as the bureau will say your working but you haven’t worked in over a week etc.

    This is not fair to the employee ecspecially after VDC as closeout comes for a brief few days then there is not much else. So the census says you are employed for a season still as temporary however the bureau must hire you back for the next season, however since the project is almost over and will be done entirely in september, when is the next season????

    In this case unemployment should not be denied but yet the bureau is blocking it by not laying people off and not calling them back. Now if you have to make so much in a quarter to qualify, well I guess making you wait with no work will just lower that unemployment if you do end up getting it. Is this correct? If I’m wrong please let me know.

    And temporary or not, why should the census bureau not have to follow the rules that everyone else does? There is no next season and making us wait in august will only lower our unemployment, and they may call you back for a few days in august or september for a much smaller project that may last up to a week if you’re lucky. Bottom line is here, they aren’t treating people right when they block their unemployment when that blocking is intended to lower unemployment benefits or to deny. This would be wrong for any other employer and is wrong here as well. Temporary status or not.

    There are many jobs now that are temporary due to an extremely bad economy so does that mean noone has to pay unemployment benefits to temporary employees even if they make enough to qualify for benefits? Or is that just a special status for the census bureau? If this is the case then anyone can deny anyone benefits by pulling shady crap that is not kosh anywhere. According to unemployment if you make x amount in a quarter then you qualify, also, if you don’t get called for work in a week you’re unemployed and that’s it. So why can’t everyone follow those rules and why are some allowed not to?

  41. senseless bureau Says:

    Also, although census employees are repeatedly told their job is temporary they are not told that the bureau has special temporary status to act in a manner that appears to be designed to block and lower unemployment compensation.

    In short you are never told that you will be out of work yet not laid off and that the bureau has special temporary status with UIA which fall under different rules than most any other employers. Albeit I’m sure it’s in a manual somewhere under some code such as DUBL547 (deny umemployment benefits legally).