DMV workers speak out

JUNE 17, 2010


For reasons that shouldn’t surprise anyone, employees of the California Department of Motor Vehicles have a lot to say. In May, when DMV officials began circulating a “Two Minute DMV Employee Survey,” 4,547 staffers responded – 51 percent of the department. Though 59 percent of respondents said they’re “satisfied” with their jobs, 2,252 respondents (roughly half of those who completed the survey) gave often negative comments about what the department could do differently. In fact, of the 229 “sample comments” included in the 62-page survey report, just four were positive.

In a May 24, 2010 memo on the survey obtained by CalWatchdog, DMV Director George Valverde called the outspoken comments “thoughtful” and “detailed” and said they “provided a number of ideas to help bring about positive change at DMV.”

The survey, a copy of which was also obtained by CalWatchdog, show respondents came from offices all over the state. The comments they provided offer a fascinating snapshot into life on the other side of the DMV counter. Here a few choice samples, complete with whatever spelling and grammatical errors were present in the originals:

“Managers/supervisors should be more sensitive, respectful to their employees. i.e.: if managers need employees to stay to help, please ask nicely and not be mean. Be sensitive and respectful even though we’re just your employees, we have feelings too. After all these furloughs, long hours, we need to be treated better….”

“Where there is upward mobility and technicians become management they are taught to be disrespectful of the worker. They do not trust us anymore and treat us like children. Walk a day in our shoes undercover. See how it is. As a tech, I have watched many people put down and when a customer writes in, their words are taken for golden truth and we are the liars. It is very unfair. When we lay down the law as government workers, we are threatened and told off in colorful language. Then when that customer writes in, we are written up….Don’t get me wrong, there are wonderful managers, but few.”

“Have more employees so more windows are open”

“The Department promotes ‘green’ technology. We recycle, we have [sic] are provided with helpful hints on way of improving our environment, we construct ‘green’ workplaces. Why not allow telecommuting when the job duties allow it? It would help the environment by eliminating fuel emissions and traffic congestion. Stress would be greatly reduced and there would be less absences. There are not a lot of ‘perks’ to offer to employees. This should be one of them…it would make a lot of people happy and more productive.”

“4 hours of customer contact is enough in any one day. The other 4 hours could be doing something else. Just to keep sanity.”

“DMV employees are harassed about time off. You can’t get it easily. To plan vacation days off in Dec, this is very difficult. Field office is very limited….”

“Overhaul the management mentality. Train management to manage with a participative management style not the authoritarian style of yesterday. Require more education of management, not simply high school level.”

“Just treat all employees with fairness and understanding no one employee should be treated better than another and keep in mind we are all humans, not robots.”

“…Stop hiring people that are your friends and hire someone that can actually do the job.”

“Supervisors need the authority to discipline employees properly, and the furloughs, salary cuts, budget cuts are creating a very stressful workplace. The entire staff is getting burned out having to listen to upset customers due to the prolonged wait times….”

“Hold rank & file accountable to the job they are paid to do. State workers are coddled too much and the union is allowed to hinder production far too much supporting baseless employee complaints.”

“…Many of the employees are dressed in un-professional clothing and shoes. I have seen employees in flip-flops, pajamas and even shorts. I have observed staff sleeping at their work stations and in the bathroom chairs. While I understand employee rights, I do believe the Department of Motor Vehicles has a right to appear to the public and internal customers to be of high moral, integrity and professionalism.”

“Update computers – work done on a 1980’s system is ridiculous….For as many customers as we service, our computer systems are not user friendly.”

“The question should be for the general public – we baby the public to the extreme. They have enough reading material to come prepared for whatever transaction they are here for. But they are never ready! That is why the lines are so backed up. The emphasis should be on better preparation before stepping in the door.”

“Get rid of those automated voice response systems where you have to press numerous buttons to get to someone who can answer my customers’ questions. And quite often, after pressing all the buttons, the line’s busy anyway.”

“More parking.”

For its part, the DMV seems pleased with the survey. “The department hasn’t done a survey in many years,” DMV spokesperson Jan Mendoza said. “We were very, very happy about the number of comments.” Mendoza added that the 51 percent response rate was “much higher” than department officials had expected, and they were considering sending out annual surveys.


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  1. StevefromSacto
    StevefromSacto 17 June, 2010, 09:13

    “Throw more DMV employees out of work, making the lines longer for us and the workload worse for those who remain. But that’s OK, because they are government employees, not REAL workers.”

    Meg Whitman

    Reply this comment
  2. Peyton Farquhar
    Peyton Farquhar 17 June, 2010, 11:10

    This is a joke, right? Something from “The Onion.” DMV workers complaining about how terrible their jobs are is like the State Legislature complaining about how bad they have it. Both groups are overpaid and underworked. They have bloated salaries and bennies that the private sector can only dream about and still the public union wants more for them. I’m not a fan of Whitman, but employees who belong to a public union complaining about how rough it is for them is galling. If they had real jobs where they had to pay a portion towards their health insurance and pensions, and, were held accountable, then they could complain. But as it is right now? No way. Go cry to another public union employee for sympathy. Everyone else in California is unemployed and running out of UI.

    Reply this comment
    • UnderpaidstateWorker
      UnderpaidstateWorker 31 July, 2013, 22:15

      They do pay a huge chunk into pensions and a ridiculous amount towards health care. They haven’t had a simple cost of living increase in years and their take home pay keeps getting smaller and smaller. Educate yourself before you speak!

      Reply this comment
    • Jaypere
      Jaypere 15 January, 2020, 14:50

      This is False I only been working for the DMV in NYC about 2 months, we are under paid especially for the cost of living in NYC, as a full time employee your check won’t even reach $950
      While rent is over 1300. We are force to work 12 hours shifts for 5 days straight while some of us have kids… just imagine entering a job at 8:15 am just to get out at 9:00pm each day. DMV workers are usually the punching bag for the State screw up. Yes there’s a lot of employees now to assist people on the floor but there’s a lack of counters to process at leading to longer wait times, so the state solution was to extend our shifts but by having us there longer doesn’t mean the customers are gonna leave out faster, we need more counters and a better number calling system

      Reply this comment
  3. StevefromSacto
    StevefromSacto 18 June, 2010, 09:48

    Geez, Peyton, “bloated salaries and bennies” for file clerks at DMV? That’s a stretch, even for public employee haters.. And please quit telling the LIE that public employees don’t have to contribute to their health insurance and pensions. They do.

    Reply this comment
  4. C Walker
    C Walker 18 June, 2010, 13:32

    My wife and i have a combined forty (40) years of experience as STATE EMPLOYMENT. Served time on both sides of the fence (Rank and file & Management.

    These comments could very well come from many State Departments/Agencies.

    Working for the state is No cakewalk for anyone.

    Some employees are great workers and some are useless. Just like most anywhere else.

    The problems start at the very top. Tis often said department directors make no significant decision without answering this question: HOW IS THIS ACTION GOING TO MAKE THE GOVERNOR LOOK? HOW IT IMPACTS THE PUBLIC, IF ASKED AND ANSWERED AT ALL, is secondary. How it impacts the staff is frequently not answered at all.

    Then bring in a new Governor and her/his appointees and frequently spend the first year or two undoing the work/policy/direction of the outgoing administration.

    Within state employment both rank/file and management are driven a little nuts with this crazy way of operating.

    Staff and management in local offices are the face of the state and should be treated with the utmost respect and provided support to properly do their job. But with hiring freezes almost always the hiring of massive staff when agencies/departments get told no more freeze and to hire, hire, hire.

    The result, and is said, we now have hired the cream of the crap because folks who applied say two years ago have likely found work. Those that did not is what you are left with to hire from.

    Those in management who stick up for staff or fixing policies that are simply not effective, are as the saying goes: the nail that sticks up gets hammered down. After many years of that, folk just turn off and work for retirement, frequently with that blank look in their eyes.

    But, you have a job. You also have the freedom to quit and go elsewhere. If you do decide to stay you still owe the public your best.

    Reply this comment
  5. A Public Employee
    A Public Employee 18 June, 2010, 16:10

    The release of primary transcripts of quotes from individual employees warrants an investigation by the state auditor as this would normally be against state department policy. If this was someone’s attempt at whistle blowing, it was done in a manner that could jeopardize the employment of the individuals whose quotes were released as some of these quotes describe specific traceable incidents.

    Either way, an investigation is warranted. I will forward this to the proper authorities.

    Reply this comment
  6. A Public Employee
    A Public Employee 18 June, 2010, 16:33

    The following webpage contains results of state audits which report millions of dollars being lost as a result of how departments are mismanaged. The most recent report cites a mistake resulting in a loss of ten million dollars with one department alone. This is what the public needs to be informed of. The observations of rank and file staff pale in comparison to such fiscal blunders-oversights.

    Reports found at this webpage

    Reply this comment
  7. C Walker
    C Walker 18 June, 2010, 18:04

    The release sounds like it was not classified. There is certainly a right way to whistle blow and even an 800 number.

    And another reason folks should consider raising such via union or in the case of management, always try to do the right thing via proper channel first. However if you the try the blowing the whistle afterwards they will know who raised the issue. Results frequently in becoming the nail to get hammered in my prior post.

    Reply this comment
  8. A Public Employee
    A Public Employee 19 June, 2010, 07:36

    Most always give it their best, but there is that one employee who believes if they are going to be subjected to minimum wage as a result of the budget crisis, that they should give less effort. Most of us have a work ethic that would preclude such.

    Reply this comment
  9. A Public Employee
    A Public Employee 19 June, 2010, 07:42

    Regarding whether or not the survey was classified, the department has a policy outlined in the Supervisors Discipline manual that prohibits employees from talking to the public and from saying anything derogatory about their employer.

    The same manual states one definition of “insubordination” as follows: “any attempt to make management appear incompetent.” Some of these quotes do just that.

    The release of this information appears to contradict many state policies in which violation of can result in adverse action.

    Reply this comment
  10. Ummmm
    Ummmm 9 December, 2010, 00:02

    I’m a dmv employee and I pay $100 a month towards my insurance (for just myself…no family) and $200 towards my retirement. so do your homework and stop bitching. Or go take a test, pass it, and get hired so you can get a grand bloated salary of $2k a month. Paid once a month. Do you know how hard it is to stretch that to last all month after I pay my bills? I dare you to try it.

    Reply this comment
  11. DeVille
    DeVille 23 July, 2011, 23:16

    Get a real job and you won’t have to “stretch it” anymore.

    Reply this comment
  12. marine one
    marine one 14 January, 2014, 17:05

    im just glad that they can see how it feels to be treated like scum…sort of like they treat the public… no love from me

    Reply this comment
  13. David
    David 25 February, 2016, 12:37

    They are overpaid paper pushers in make-work jobs.

    I talked to a DMV worker the other day – her and her husband drive a new BMW’s and Lexus. That is outtrageous. This is where your taxpayer money is going people.

    Reply this comment
  14. izraul
    izraul 14 April, 2018, 18:08

    All Bullsh!t aside, the majority of government employees aren’t fit to work those jobs. The DMV has no business hiring people who are ignorant of the laws of which they deal in.

    Lawyers can’t practice law without obtaining a license and obtaining one takes a lot of hard work. The reason for that is to weed out those who have no business working in that profession. Obviously the law is an important part of society and it makes sense to assure people who work in that field are capable, intelligent qualified.

    Anyone who works in an official capacity should be aware of their own authoritative limits, which means having clear understanding of the laws that surround their work.

    If a person has to stand in a line for 3 hours to take care of an issue, they shouldn’t be met with blank ignorant stares from people who can’t help because they don’t know the law. But that’s exactly what happens, and it happened to me the other day.

    To be fair, the problem is more than just a lack of knowledgeable people. The DMV itself acts outside the scope of it’s authority, like when it demands registration for people who own private passenger/ house cars.

    Registration is for commercial vehicles only. That may sound untrue to an ignorant person, but anyone who takes the time to read the laws knows that it’s true. And Ca Vehicle Code 260 makes the distinction clear. Only Commercial Vehicles require registration. That’s the law, whether the DMV likes it or not. Just because they want money doesn’t mean they can ignore the law. That’s not how the law works.

    I know the law. I can read. I’m not stupid. The DMV intentionally makes it hard to deal with and try not to mention it. They violate the law and then hide like cowards from having to communicate with anyone questioning it. You’re forced to go to the office to talk to the people who know nothing about the law. Ignorant people who even try to argue that it’s wrong. I’m not wrong, they are! And unfortunately for them I know how to make them pay for it whereas most people will just give up, which is what they want. But they can only get away with what you let them. You have to stand your ground.

    And if I have to go through all that just to get some officials to follow their own laws, it’s going to cost them for wasting my time. Ignorance of the law is no excuse. Especially for government officials who deal with those legal issues.

    I shouldn’t have to take time from my life just to explain the operation of laws to a government agency who’s operation consists of enforcing laws on other people everyday. That’s just dumb.

    If the DMV doesn’t know what the hell the law is, then they have no business trying to enforce it on others. AND If they don’t like the law and refuses to follow it, then they have no business expecting others to do it.

    Reply this comment

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