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Back Office Systems – “If It Ain’t Broke….Maybe You Should Replace It?”

As specialists in union back office systems we often hear the old saying (upon which I’ve based my title above) “if it ain’t broke don’t fix it.” This is often used when talking about software which could be referred to as “past its sell by date”, “vintage” or well….. Just plain old.

There is some truth to this adage when discussing perhaps a kitchen blender or a staging of a Shakespeare play, but when it comes to software it can be false economy in the extreme. Two areas in which we specialize are membership systems and accounting systems. In each of these areas, the changes that have come along in the last few years are of great significance. In some cases we are not even talking about improved functionality and additional features, but changes which have totally revolutionized the entire functionality of the product in question. Take for instance the impact of the Internet on the present possibilities of union membership and dues software. Here are some extraordinary capabilities which depending upon the size and type of union would have been unthinkable just a few years ago.

a) Maintaining and reporting on your member data from anywhere in the world.
b) Self service areas where members can (within allowed parameters) see data relevant to their own membership and dues history.
c) Pay union dues and other charges online using credit cards and / or ACH charges.
d) Instant communications en masse with membership through e-mails and social media.
e) Internationals’ systems can consolidate and analyze data in real time from hundreds of locals, with everybody viewing the same data at the same time.
f) Employer payroll data (e.g. dues deductions) being sent digitally and processed faster as a result.
g) Filing official forms and reports (Department of Labor LM-2, LM-3 etc.) online.
h) “Cloud” based systems where even small locals can access powerful systems on an “as required basis” and reduce the reliance on internal software, operating systems, networks and costly “IT support”. Cloud systems can even greatly reduce any “up front” capital expenditure.

All of the above examples have come into being relatively recently and are offered by our company. Yet time and again we see unions of all sizes still using systems which were designed and implemented years before any of this was possible.

These changes don’t just represent technical advances; they come with sometimes vast savings in efficiency and cost. The impacts upon system design, operation, and deployment have been dramatic and every union should be considering how they might benefit from adoption of a system based on the latest technology, even if their existing system “ain’t broke”. It’s a bit like sticking with a horse and buggy when you can fly. The horse and buggy “ain’t broke” but it’s time has passed, and so has its efficiency and cost effectiveness. If you have a system which has been developed before words like “eBay”, “blog” , “Google” or even “web” were around you seriously need to look at today’s alternatives. Bear in mind that at the rate modern technology advances it is far easier to make changes incrementally on a planned basis than to try and suddenly overhaul a system whose pedigree goes back to the days when disco was new.

If you would like a no obligation appraisal of your current systems, and want to find out more about how recent developments in technology can help your union, please contact us. We’ll be happy to help.

Posted in: Accounting Systems, Dues Software, Labor Unions, LM-2, Membership Systems

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How JayStar Streamlines the Department of Labor’s (DOL) LM-2 Reporting Process

This time of the year, the part of our company which deals with LM-2 preparations goes into overdrive as most unions end their fiscal year in December, resulting in an LM-2 filing date in late March.

Ever since the information requirements in this area became more onerous a few years back, this part of our business has steadily grown and in the process we have refined the service and software we use to address this area. Whether a union decides to use our preparation services or not, here are some areas of general advice that we give to any union faced with filing this report.

Firstly, don’t look upon this requirement as an “end of year” exercise, but rather treat it as a year round process which will greatly ease the panic factor at year end and curb the stress of “rushing to meet the deadline.”

To achieve a smoother process, start by regarding your LM-2 preparation as three distinct areas.

  1. Data recording
  2. Data extraction and consolidation
  3. Filing

Here are some tips we can pass along in each area

  1. Data recording – This is mostly done in your accounting system. Try to work with a system which enables you to record the LM-2 information for each transaction AS YOU RECORD IT and WHICH IS IN ADDITION to the “regular” coding required for general ledger coding. The Department of Labor’s original recommendations, which advise basically increasing your general ledger accounts is NOT the most efficient way of doing this.  Systems like QuickBooks® and Microsoft Dynamics GP® have “class” or “analysis” codes which work much better in this area.*By capturing the LM-2 information as you record each transaction you will avoid a mass re-coding effort at the end of the year.
  2. Data extraction and consolidation – Once the data is captured as part of your regular accounting process, you need to extract it and group according to LM-2 schedule requirements. If you are using an accounting system like the ones I mention above, you should be able to extract your transactional data by creating customized reports and then exporting the results to Excel®.  In Excel you then have the ability to sort and group the data in accordance with DOL schedule requirements.
  3. Filing – The DOL software provides import routines to enable you to import your data into the web form without having to key every item. Getting your extracted data into one of the formats required may require some technical expertise, but since some LM-2’s can run into hundreds of pages, the time spent here will be well worth it.

Obviously there are many considerations and details to consider in the above steps. Experts like our business or your CPA can advise you on each step of the LM-2 process and do so in accordance with the Office of Labor-Management Standards (OLMS). For instance, our company uses specialized software for steps 1) and 2) above. This greatly reduces manual effort and is far superior in terms of analysis, balancing, and audit trail provision.

We have also created specialized “Toolkits” for step 1) above, for some of the more popular accounting systems. If you would like a free copy of one of these, or for more information, please contact us at info@jaystargroup.com or 203-831-8655 and we will be happy to assist you.

Also take a look at U.S. Congressman Jim Himes visiting our offices during last year’s busy LM-2 preparation season.

Posted in: Labor Unions, LM-2

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New York Bus Drivers Strike Hits Home

When I came across an article about the New York bus drivers strike in the NY Times, I am reminded that for the first 10 years of my life, my father was a bus driver and a union man. Although he eventually moved on from being a bus driver, he remained a union man his whole work life.

My father worked for the city back in my native Scotland, and like the workers in this story, he was more than just somebody who drove them around. He was a familiar face on his route, and a symbol of dependability. I can remember when my friends and I would get the opportunity to ride on his bus, and that I felt VERY proud this guy everybody knew was in charge, and that he was MY father.

Later in life I would reflect that he carried responsibility for many people’s lives in the same manner as an airline pilot, but yet worked long hours and was paid low wages. Like most workers in Scotland up until the 1960’s, he worked Christmas day as a matter of course.  By 1963 staff turnover amongst bus drivers was over 50% in a 12 month period. In 1964 his union went on strike like the workers in New York and things started to change, but by that time he was in another job as a telecommunications engineer with strong union representation.

He never worked another Christmas.

Posted in: Labor Unions

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