Author Archive

Living through it – from Punch Cards to Mobile Applications!

This posting will unfortunately betray the fact that I may have entered that period of life known as the “senior years”. With that comes a degree of reflection and I was thinking of the technical progress that I have seen in my professional life so far (and hopefully more to come!) This was also prompted by a union calling me and asking if anyone in our company could handle a conversion from a system running on a “mainframe” using COBOL- really. More surprisingly, was that yes, we could actually handle that.

A whole lexicon related to systems from the past came to me- punch cards, IBM 360, mini computers, dumb terminals, Apple 11, floppy disk, Novell, Y2K etc. etc. Amongst this barrage of by- gone systems there was one related, recent fact that impressed me at the end of this stream – after decades of dominance as the principal processing tool by business and individuals the reign of the PC is coming to an end. For the first time since its introduction to the market, sales of PC’s are on the decline as the emphasis on mobile applications and the device platforms they use grows dramatically. I thought about the aforementioned union with their “mainframe/COBL” system and the world they would be moved to by changing to leading edge modern software.

The business of unions cries out for the adoption of mobile systems as much, if not more so, as any corporation and yet I am sure that an analysis of their platforms would show that they are lamentably behind in this respect. Unions have geographically diverse related entities (Internationals, Councils, Chapters, and Locals etc.) as well as a need for staff and members to share data in different locations sometimes while “on the road” or “offsite”.

The adoption of web based mobile systems can dramatically change the way unions do business and drive efficiencies that could not have been imagined just a few years ago. By using mobile devices union staff that work “in the field” such as business agents and stewards can access central database information via their mobile devices and provide answers to employers and members in seconds. Processes such as Dispatch and Hiring Hall as well as Grievance Management can be carried out remotely thereby vastly improving communications and the efficiency of these key operations. In addition when coupled with effective member engagement activities through social media, SMS and e-mail blasts (accessed by members on THEIR mobile devices), key activities such as organizing and voter turnout programs, become transformed creating tremendous possibilities for unions on the political and organizing level. Other key uses we are developing relate to processes like an instant status checks of a member’s “standing” and dues payment history as well as the processing of dues – all done via “remote” mobiles devices.

In summary, the possibilities of “field” uses to strengthen member ties to the union and improve operational efficiencies for the Local are no longer limited by technology but are actually improved by it.

The new customer I mentioned earlier with the “mainframe/COBOL -based system will be moving to our new PRIZM® system which is “mobile ready” and provides all of the functionality that I outlined above. It’s going to be an incredible change but that’s what is needed in many union systems that have become obsolete and inefficient. Check out where your union lies between “punch cards and Mobile Applications” and if you want us to help you move towards the most advanced software that there is give me a call personally and I will be happy to arrange a demonstration of what’s possible at YOUR union.

Robert N Stevenson
Director of Business Development
tel: (203) 831 8655 ext. 113

Posted in: Accounting Systems, Dues Software, Labor Unions, Membership Systems

Leave a Comment (0) →

Using Technology to Counter the Assault on Unions

The campaign to de-fang unions and thence the power of their workers continues throughout various states and lamentably with undeniable success.  One of the most powerful weapons that the enemies of our unions have at their disposal is the possibility to remove the right of unions to collect their dues by “check off”   from the employers of their members. This is the process whereby the union members’ dues are deducted from their payroll and the money remitted directly to the union in question.   Members’ dues are the financial lifeblood of any union so the ability to disrupt that flow of cash can inflict serious financial damage, crippling the ability of the union to operate.  This tool has been used successfully in several states (for state workers) that have gone “right to work” in recent years thanks to changes in the political leadership at the state level.

Fortunately there are solutions that current technology offers for meeting this challenge.   Huge numbers of people in today’s society (if not the majority) have at one time or another paid for products or services online. Whether it is their utility bill, an item on eBay or a product from Amazon, online payments have become ubiquitous and an accepted “norm”…. so why not your union’s dues?  At JayStar we started tackling this issue some years ago and after a lengthy development process and a partnership with a leading bank we launched an online dues payment system (  This allows any union’s members to pay their dues online by credit card or by ACH. It also provides for payment details to be downloaded and in most instances imported into the union’s member ship and dues system.  The removal of “check-off” then becomes just another irritation that can be overcome.

There is no doubt that this product has attracted much attention and I’m sure we will see more and more customers for it as the anti-union assault gathers steam. That’s encouraging but it’s also fair to say that there is still much “wishful thinking” amongst certain unions that somehow this is an aberration that will go away  and  who don’t even have a “plan B” ready when it may happen to them.

This issue is NOT going away and there is technology available to mitigate the effects of this strategy should it happen to your union. Be pro-active and investigate your options NOW rather than scramble for a solution after it happens.

Contact us to learn more about PayMyUnionDues.

Posted in: Dues Software, Labor Unions, LM-2

Leave a Comment (0) →

An Entrepreneurial “Downshift”

At the end of last month I stepped down from my position of CEO with the company and took up my new position of Director of Business Development. This move, long planned, by my partner and I finally came around where the intent is for me to move closer to “retirement”. It’s not a word that comes easy to me far less the actual event itself. I’ve been searching around for another word to describe the situation and one of my customers suggested “downshifting”. That’s probably what I’m going to go with in the meantime – “downshifting”. Not that I expect to be exactly taking it easy. The company continues to grow and I intend to play my part in contributing to that in a very meaningful way. As with all transitions, it’s a time for reflection (at least for me) and I thought about what an exciting 12 years it’s been since Dave Roger and I founded this company. I also thought about the highs and lows that come with being entrepreneurs. Unless you’ve tried it no-one can possibly understand what it’s like.- sleepless nights, 7 day work weeks, the angst of making payroll, hiring and firing, planning, fighting, arguing, laughing and complaining, exciting, joyful, depressing …. It goes on and on. There really is nothing like it since you are operating with no safety net and relying on yourselves and the expertise that you have gained through experience, or through hiring really fine staff (which we have). With that said, I am really, really fed up with our politicians who continually tell us that “small businesses are the backbone of our economy” etc. etc. and yet do virtually nothing for us. Frankly, I wish they would just shut up. The exception for us has been at the local level where the State of Connecticut helped us with a grant, conditional upon creating jobs…. and create jobs we did! So, hats off to this bi-partisan program which realizes that if you give assistance to aggressive highly motivated, talented individuals you’ll get results. Seems like a no brainer.

Being an entrepreneur is not for everybody, it’s not even for most people, and unfortunately the odds are stacked against one. In the last few years the statistics are that there are dramatically fewer entrepreneurial ventures being started each year and that the failure rate is high, ….and this in a country which prided itself on being the shining example in this area. With our political system crippled by the corrupting influence of more and more money and the power of special interest groups, plus a Congress whose behavior resembles a kindergarten, there is little room for optimism on my part that anything will change anytime soon. So, in conclusion I salute all of my fellow entrepreneurs in whatever endeavor they are engaged and wish them well. May they reach the time when they too can enjoy “downshifting” as the well-deserved fruits of their labor.


Bob Stevenson in downshifting mode

Posted in: General, Uncategorized

Leave a Comment (0) →

Remembering Pete Seeger

pete seeger

(Photo: Bruce Davidson/Magnum)

Pete Seeger died today. Pete Seeger was an individual who seemed almost immortal to me. I started playing folk guitar when I was about 14 years old and later sang in a folk group. A lot of the songs I sang were written by Pete. A few years ago I acquired a 1964 long neck “Pete Seeger” banjo, the real article made by Vega of Boston with a handwritten yellow label inside saying “Pete Seeger”. Pete lived not too far from here so I sent a letter to him asking if he would sign my banjo, never really expecting any reply. I did get a reply from Pete’s wife, Toshi. The letter was addressed and handwritten by Toshi and there was also a “form letter” from Pete saying that he found it hard to answer the thousands of letters he received on an individual basis. Toshi suggested I come to the Clearwater coffee house and Pete might find time to sign the banjo. I never did make it to concerts that he attended there but I still have the letter (and of course the banjo). Apart from the foregoing personal memories, I also wanted to stress in this blog that Pete Seeger was a staunch supporter of unions and wrote many songs in that vein. In that respect he was following another great folk singer – Woody Guthrie.

Pete Seeger was politically a controversial personality and whether you agreed with him or not he was a man of great principles and was unafraid to voice his opinions – usually in a peaceful way through his songs. In a day and age where our politicians’ principles seem to be in ever decline and even blatantly up for sale in some cases, we should pause and consider that this country has lost a great American, and a great friend to unions.

Posted in: Uncategorized

Leave a Comment (0) →

The World of “Crisis Driven Systems Decisions”

I use this phrase to describe what a great many unions (and other organizations) use as their systems development “strategy”.  In this paradigm there is little thought given to pro-active planning of upgrading software or hardware. Staff skills are rarely considered either.

I am reminded of an old “Seinfeld” episode where Jerry is describing the average man’s attitude to buying underwear. “Men will wear their underwear until the last molecule of underwear is gone before even thinking of a replacement.”  Maybe a bit extreme but you get the point.  Below are some actual examples of this phenomenon in calls we have received.

1. “Our bookkeeper is retiring and we are thinking of a PC based system”.  Current system? – “Books.”

2. “Our printer broke and we can’t find another one that prints “green bar” computer stock for our reports.”

3. “Our COBOL programmer just walked out, can you help us?” 

4. “Do you have anybody there who can upgrade our Lotus 123 system? We have had it since 1983 and we love it.”

I often think if the same attitude was adopted towards systems as we take towards automobiles, we would probably see this disappear. If you did drive a 30 year- old car you would probably be envied as the owner of a “collectible”.   Try finding buyers for a 30 year – old computer system. No “classics” there!

Here’s what’s REALLY bad about this state of affairs. If this is how your union is operating, things are going to get much worse! We now operate in a world where major software companies “manufacture” these crises by continual “upgrades.” (That’s the one where they move things around the screen and tell you it’s a new version.) More drastically, these major software developers will “kill” development platforms to continually promote the sales of newer products.  

Some of this is pure marketing, but much of it is genuinely driven by the pace of technology change. Gone are the days of developing software and installing it on a particular operating system / hardware configuration and then letting it chug away for 15-20 or even 30 years! The longevity of ANY systems in terms of supportability is now much less than that and demands almost constant review and pro-active action.  Failure to stay on top of the latest in software development invites continual crises in your union.

If you have such a “crisis” – give us a call.  BETTER STILL – contact us to avoid a crisis. 

Posted in: Accounting Systems, Dues Software, Membership Systems

Leave a Comment (0) →

In Praise of Diversity

In recent news we have seen various headlines on immigration reform, women’s rights, and numerous forms of discrimination that occur in the workplace.  Our business is in providing solutions to labor unions and I thought about how our customers, who represent the working people of America (or at least those that are still organized), stack up when it comes to these issues.  In particular I remember being at a meeting with one of our first customers where there were photographs in the room of their conventions from the 1920’s and 1930’s.  As a student of American history I noticed that the audience was completely integrated with Caucasian and African American delegates sitting side by side.  This surprised me knowing that this photograph was taken in the era of “Jim Crow.”  It turned out that for this union, equality, regardless of race or ethnicity had been a cornerstone of their constitution almost from their inception.  Why didn’t I know this?  I guarantee that 99% of the American public wouldn’t know this either.   Unions by and large do a lousy job of public relations. They let their enemies mold the public perception of unions which are so stereotypical it would be redundant for me to even address it.  But from my point of view, the truth is the union world is streets ahead of the corporate world in diversity of all kinds, ethnic, gender, and age.  Unions have been in the forefront of leading social change for most of their existence.   If we put aside the economic arguments for organized labor (which are powerful in themselves) and consider the metrics by which we value a fairer, more just society, why isn’t this being highlighted in a more aggressive fashion by union leaders?

Taking the issue of diversity a step further I looked at our own companies’ staff.

We have the following ethnicities/countries of origin: Anglo, Hispanic, Indian, Sri Lankan, Nepali & Chinese.

Our gender mix is almost exactly 50-50 male and female.

40% of our staff (including me and my partner) is over 50 years of age.

Bear in mind we outsource NOTHING, so I’m talking about around 20 individuals under the same roof here in Connecticut. Also when I investigated further I noted that we can converse (to a greater or lesser degree) in the following languages:









-Chinese – Mandarin

-Chinese – Cantonese

In other words this is an American company, proof positive that diversity in all areas is our strength.

This is not some abstract “politically correct” idea but a working practical example of a successful business which has grown in a few years to be a major provider of software and related services to the union world.  We try to follow the example of our customers when it comes to regarding the differences in ethnicity, gender, and age as a strength.   If you would like additional information on any of our products or services please call us (in any of the above languages) or contact us and we will be glad to help.

Posted in: General, News

Leave a Comment (0) →

Embezzlement – It Involves the Nicest People

They were the last people you would ever imagine would steal $____________ (fill in the dollars).

My professional background was originally in accounting.  I held various positions ranging from a NATO budget analyst to the Financial Controllership of a major corporation.

In the course of this wide-ranging career it was my dubious privilege to become acquainted with various individuals who had committed fraud.  Recently I was once again confronted by the news that a past customer of ours had committed embezzlement and was now facing jail time. This was the second time in the last year that I had heard this kind of news about people I knew.  My reaction has always been the same. It’s the one that is classically recorded in the media to these events……. “I can’t believe it; he/she seemed like the last person who would do that!”  After a 40 year professional career nothing has changed in this respect. I remember having dinner with a customer many years ago and in the course of that evening I mentioned the sophisticated auditing capabilities that were in our software (which he was using) but which were hidden from the user.

Almost immediately large beads of perspiration broke out on my customers face accompanied by the words “WHAT!!! YOU DIDN’T TELL ME THAT!” You can guess the rest.  The amount stolen was in the millions.  The message here of course is that we MUST implement best practices in our accounting processes and software when it comes to discouraging embezzlement and trust NOT in our judgment of somebody’s “niceness.”

It is actually almost impossible to completely eliminate the possibility of fraud when it comes to a determined embezzler. Embezzlers I have spoken with have in many cases started out with the promise (to themselves), that they were “borrowing” the money and would put it back when in a position to do so. When they subsequently were unable to pay it back, there then was a rationalization process whereby they convinced themselves that they somehow had “earned” it on just this occasion, so no problem. Needless to say, that rationalization progresses to the point where it becomes a “right” to steal on a frequent basis.

Good prevention practices are a combination of processes like division of responsibilities so that no one person controls the finances, and taking advantage of security features found in your Accounting software. Some software packages are of course much more capable in this area than others, and by and large you get what you pay for.

To learn more about the security features of our software and fraud prevention please contact us or our accounting software partners CriticalEdge Group.

Posted in: Accounting Systems, General

Leave a Comment (0) →

Outsource to America?

This week our company was in the news for receiving a grant from the State of Connecticut for “job creation.” Our agreement with the State is that we will match, dollar for dollar, the amount we get from them and use that money to create jobs in our home state. This is something that comes naturally to us as it is what we have been doing since we created our company.  Nobody who works for us lives outside the borders of Connecticut and most of us are less than a 20 minute drive away.  In this age of long distance commuting and “outsourcing” hiring locally might seem somewhat “out of date” especially since we are a Technology company.  We say “NONSENSE!” and would match our staff against any in the world and have currently found all the talent we need right here in our own backyard.

Moreover, as well as making sound business sense, my partner and I have always thought that this was “patriotic”.  For us, providing jobs for people in this country is important and we take issue with the prevailing attitude of “oh well, its globalization and that’s how it goes.”   We’ll go as far as paying more for our supplies if they can be domestically sourced.   I’m not saying that there isn’t a place for outsourcing in certain areas but in the last two decades it seems like there has been a rush to outsource everything that is possible, rather than everything that makes sense.  The values of teamwork, morale, communications, service and people management seems to have been, in many cases thrown out the window. The results overall have been reduced quality of service. (Think “Your call is important to us……”).   When it comes to designing complex software involving tight project deadlines, frequent communication and teamwork are essential. Nobody can convince me that doing so with people half a world away, whom I have never met and who don’t know our customers is anything but false economy at best and a potential disaster at worst.  Sure, the rates might be a fifth of what they are here in the States but that’s only one variable…….and it should NOT be the deciding factor.    (AND, it’ll probably take 5 times as long to get it right.)

So even if your idea of being “patriotic” includes outsourcing, you might want to look beyond the cost factor alone.  If you have ever become frustrated talking to a support person 6,000 miles away who is pretending to be “Mike from Atlanta,” imagine how that would work trying to design, develop, and implement a complex software product.

We can ONLY imagine, since it’s not something you are going to see us do.

To talk with Bob or Dave in Connecticut (yes, really, IN Connecticut) Contact us or Call us at 203-831-8655.

Posted in: General, Labor Unions, News

Leave a Comment (0) →

Small Business Express Program Adds JayStar Group (Video)

We had a great visit to our office yesterday from State Senator Bob Duff and State Representative Larry Cafero. We are excited to join the Small Business Express Program and look forward to new hires as we continue to expand! Click on the picture below to watch the news story from


State Senator Bob Duff and State Representative Larry Cafero with JayStar Group President Dave Roger and CEO Bob Stevenson



Posted in: Labor Unions, News

Leave a Comment (0) →

Is your Organization Vulnerable to Back Office Attacks? – Get EXPERT Help!

It’s no secret that these days unions are under attack at many levels from their political and ideological foes. Some of the more recent tactics are directly aimed at disrupting or crippling a union by using indirect methods, such as attacking their administrative functions. A prime example of this is the threatened removal of “dues check off”; the procedure whereby a union organized employer deducts dues amounts from the union employees’ payroll check and remits the amounts directly to the union in question.  Members’ dues of course are the life blood of unions. Disrupting the dues check off or other collection procedures in such a fashion as to force the union to collect individual dues from every member, can seriously threaten a union’s existence.  As another example, think of how the Bush-era changes in the LM-2 regulations forced you to spend time and money re-working your bookkeeping and accounting. Or, think about how changes in the right-to-work laws are profoundly affecting organized labor.

The potential for these “indirect” attacks should make every union examine their “back office” procedures (accounting, membership administration, benefits administration etc.) and think proactively about how to be prepared.

Here are three pieces of advice that we could give unions in this direction:

  1. Focus on what the prime mission of any union is – organizing and mobilizing your members
  2. Get expert assistance in the areas in which you are not an “expert.” This usually means your “back office.”  Whether you have a full time, paid back office staff, or are a smaller organization with volunteers performing these tasks, make sure you have the best tools in place.
  3. These attacks are not going away.  Plan for the future and avoid short term thinking. Maybe your opponents didn’t win this time around, but they will try again.

To achieve these objectives means investment and thinking about your union for the long term. It cannot be done “on the cheap.” Getting expert assistance does not mean your brother in law who took a week long course on programming or the guy next door who “keeps books”. It means delegating your back office functionality as much as you can to experts in the following areas:

  1. Accounting and Financial Control
  2. Membership and Dues Administration
  3. Benefits Administration
  4. Information Technology

Getting real experts in these areas will pay off hugely in the long term.  This fight is going to be waged in the long term.

If you want expert advice on any of the areas above contact us for a free conversation and evaluation.

Posted in: Accounting Systems, Dues Software, Labor Unions, Membership Systems

Leave a Comment (0) →
Page 1 of 2 12