U.S. Census critical for jobs, communities and unions

By Sheri Williams

In coming weeks, the 2020 United States Census will begin, and California Labor is working hard to ensure that every union member is counted.

“It’s critical that our members participate because an accurate census count is vital to working families,” said Sacramento Central Labor Council executive director Fabrizio Sasso. “Showing our true numbers will ensure we receive the federal financial support we need to protect our communities, our jobs and our state.”

The statistics gleaned from the census are used by the federal government to determine funding for a variety of community needs including money for school lunches, hospital funding, support for low-income housing and support for families in need.

Census data is used to distribute nearly $700 billion in federal funds. Sacramento receives more than a half-billion dollars each year based on the data – but with the area’s population growth since the last census a decade ago, the amount should likely be higher. Some estimates show that for every person missed during a census count, Sacramento County could lose $1,000 per person, per year for the ten years the 2020 count will cover.

In addition to making sure communities have the resources they need to provide for all residents, that data also translates into jobs for union workers in services, the public sector and other industries.

But some of those workers can be hard to count. Those working as home health aides, for example, can be missed, while other workers may have language barriers. The census is available in multiple languages, and Labor representatives will be working with their unions to help members understand the importance of taking part and accessing the census in their languages.

Census data is also crucial to Building Trades jobs, though trades workers also can be challenging to locate and count. Census data is used to determine funding for many infrastructure and transit projects, which translates directly into work for construction trades.

Labor is also working to make sure members know that there is no citizenship question on the census, and filling it out will not affect immigration status. Last year, President Donald Trump attempted to put a citizenship question on the census, but the United States Supreme Court blocked the effort. Still, many rumors remain that filling out the census could be a risk for some without citizenship, and Labor is working hard to assure all union members and their families that is not the case.

The “law prevents the Census Bureau from sharing your information with law enforcement,” the Census Bureau said in a statement. “Your answers cannot be used to impact your eligibility for government benefits. Your answers are only used to create statistics about our country.”

Census data also determines the number of seats California receives in the U.S. House of Representatives and how many electoral college votes it receives to participate in presidential elections. The data is also used to help determine boundaries for California state Assembly and Senate legislative districts, along with boundaries for local Board of Supervisor seats, city council districts, school boards and other critical governance such as fire and water district boards.

Census forms will be mailed out the second week of March. For households that don’t respond, U.S. census workers will be going door-to-door. April 1 is the official census day when all households should have received information on how to participate, but data will be collected through September.

If a census worker does come to your door, be sure to check their identification. All census workers should have valid picture I.D. Census workers will never ask for social security numbers or bank account information.

For more information about the census and Labor, visit https://calaborfed.org/calaborcounts