I have a term position with the U.S. Census Bureau, and I want to let you all know of some of the insanity that has been occuring at the Census Bureau with regards to the coronavirus pandemic. Maybe I should not draw sweeping conclusions from my experience, but given how Trump is bungling the coronavirus pandemic, it is another data point that things are going to get worse IMHO. At the moment, I have FINALLY gotten administrative leave to stay home. This means that I will get paid, which puts me in a much better position than the millions of others who have lost their jobs. But the path to getting to this point is definitely a tale of blatant stupidity by the Census Bureau.
Why this is such an emotional issue for me is that I am my 91 year old Mother’s live in caretaker. My Mom has diabetes type II, a heart condition, and hypothyroidism. Also, I am 56 years old, and I have high blood pressure. Therefore, you can see that my Mom is extremely vunerable to coronavirus. As for me, maybe I wouldn’t end up in a hospital if I caught it, but…
Anyway, I was hired back in November, and I did work in a large warehouse facility. It is a facility with at least a 100 or more people in it at all times. I obtained a transfer to another building on March 2nd of this year, but that transfer lasted all of one day. It turns out that myself and several dozens of others who had obtained transfers were not supposed to be there until March 31st. They had screwed up the date, so they had no work for us yet. Therefore, we were told to go back to our original postings until they called us back.
This is typical for this Census.
After I worked for over a week at the warehouse, we were told to report back for training to our new assignment. The desk I sat at had about 3 feet at most on either side before you ran into the next worker. We sat five people in a row in multiple rows. It was close quarters, but it beat the warehouse. However, this was spacious considering where they had final plans to move us.
I was informed that we were going to anther bay in the building, and I was warned to look at how they had planned to arrange our desks. I went to look, and I was stunned. If I could have taken a pic without getting fired I would, but they have strict enforcement of no cell phone photos. They planned on us sitting literally next to each other chair to chair. No spacing. They even turned the computer screens from a horizontal to a vertical position to maximize the room. In other words, we were to be packed in like sardines.
Before this blessed event could happen, I had to finish my training. I am to check the work done by the Cenus enumerators. I had two days of “what do enumerators do?” training. I was scheduled for further week of training on my duties, when they gathered us together for a meeting to announce that the enumerators were not going out until the end of April because of the coronavirus pandemic. This meant that we had no work to do.
Guess what this meant for me? If you guessed that I was being sent back to my original posting and that warehouse, good for you! You can just imagine the joy that I and my fellow employees felt.
I was back at the warehouse, and I was doing my best to not show my rising anger at this situation. It only got worse each day because several people were taking advantage of signing up for administrative leave. To get administrative leave, you had to be at least 60 years old or have an underlying health issue that jeopardized your safety. My supervisor is type I diabetic, so she was outta there.
And guess who else put in for administrative leave and got the hell out of Dodge? Our HEALTH STAFF. No nurses or others to look out for the workers. They were gone!
I found rising anger at this news from all the remaining workers. And there are many a Trump supporter working at my site. There was a standard refrain of “Why don’t they just give us all administrative leave?” Our site administrator claimed that the Census Bureau was practicing “social distancing” to combat the coronavirus, and while other businesses were open, we would remain open as well.
We are the federal government NOT some fucking business! We do not go broke if we shut down for a few weeks! Plus, we were in constant violation of the CDC guidelines of no more than 10 people at one time!
Finally, one day, about half of the people did not show up for work. In fact, the men and women who run the sorters for the Census forms did not show up. This meant that staff was being shuttled around from place to place to keep the work moving.
Guess what again? I got assigned to the lovely area of envelope removal. This meant that I had to open all the incoming mail that was being sent in. Little hint: my original job assigment was never this type of job. Nothing like working in an area were the general public has been all over the work material.
This was the final straw for me. I was going to put in for administrative leave. Then, during the evening, I got a text from a friend at the Census Bureau that she was told not to report in to work the next day. She and the rest of her unit were on administrative leave.
Did any supervisor call or text me to let me know the official news? Hell no. I had to track them down to get the news.
I’m relieved that I am at home now, but for all I know, I could have already been infected. The federal goverment let this situation go on for weeks because Trump didn’t want to 1) panic people and 2) spend the fucking money paying a guy like me to stay home.