Thursday, June 25, 2009

Membership Database Project Update

The update below on CSUEU/CSEA's membership database project was sent recently to the CSUEU Board of Directors.

Background so this makes sense

Our Bylaws state:

The Vice-President for Organizing shall also keep or cause to be kept, at the Corporation's principal office or at a place determined by Board resolution, a record of the Corporation's members, showing each member's name, address, Chapter and class of membership and any changes thereto.

For years, the reliability and availability of membership (and other) data has been… suboptimal. Vice President for Organizing Ronnie Grant has made improving this a priority – on top of the usual VP for Organizing activities like the organizing plans and serving on the CSEA Board, and his newfangled information updates via email and InsideCSUEU.

His information technology background enabled Ronnie to work more directly with CSEA technical staff to assess our existing systems, and identify stumbling blocks and opportunities for improvement, even taking his own vacation time to do so.

As a result CSUEU is making progress on having the accessible, accurate data so crucial for effective chapter and statewide organizing. The update below is about one facet of the improvements to CSEA's information technology systems.

Membership Database Project: Jeeves

Good morning,

I want to provide you with an update on CSEA's membership database project, now code-named "Jeeves." (Suggestions for a permanent name are appreciated.) Everything below is from memory, so some details may be wrong.

As you probably know, a few years CSEA purchased a off-the-shelf application called UnionWare to manage the member/non-member database and dues/fees payroll collection processing for CSEA's four affiliates. With the app, we also purchased substantial integration, customization and consulting services from UnionWare. UnionWare is a Windows app with SQL Server 2007 for the back-end.

Many of you have noticed problems with the member data you receive – duplicate records, members whose member status changes back and forth between member and non-member, duplicate dues/fees deductions, members being omitted from mailings, etc.

Last year, CSEA hired a Chief Information Officer, Thomas Davis, and the CSEA Board created a strategic plan which included a complete overhaul of the membership database. CIO Davis performed some scoping, and it was decided that because of CSEA's unique environment, there is no off the shelf database that will adequately perform the needed functions. CSEA hired a team of programmers and database admins, and is now in the process of developing our own in-house membership system. The app will live on the CSEA Intranet – it's web-based, coded in .NET with SQL Server 2009 Enterprise. Once rolled out, we expect that CSEA staffing will be 1 database admin, 1 programmer and 0.5 CIO/project manager (plus the existing 1 IT Manager and 1 technician for server/operating system/hardware support).

The advantage with creating our own system in-house is that we it can be customized to meet the needs to each affiliate, in CSEA's unique central support/affiliate structure (which does not exist in other labor unions). Among other features, it is envisioned that, upon an affiliate's request, affiliate Chapter Presidents will have real-time online access to view and query their Chapter's members and non-members. Going forward past the initial release, keeping the system in-house will mean we will have flexibility for change and staff expertise we don't have with UnionWare.

Currently, this month a massive clean-up of the existing member/non-member database will be performed. CSEA estimates we have 10,000+ duplicate records across all 4 affiliates. One of the problems with UnionWare is that it does not handle importing the garbage records from the State Controller well; it tends to creates dupes in our database. Once you have dupes, it has trouble figuring out which dupe to post the fees/dues deduction to. The clean-up will be by hand. Once cleaned up, the business process for importing the SCO data will change to account for dupes.

Starting with July 1 processing (June payroll period), monthly data processing will occur in UnionWare and Jeeves in parallel. A beta user interface will be rolled out to CSEA Central Support and SEIU Local 1000 beta-testers. CSUEU is not in the beta-test group.

The 1.0 release is scheduled for September. It is planned that affiliate-specific mods will be made after the 1.0 release in a rapid fashion.

What this means to you: right now, nothing. All business processes will continue as normal. If you see any errors on any member data you receive at the Chapter, please report it to 916-326-4300, 866-763-1452 ext 300, or membership [at]


Ronnie L. Grant, Vice President for Organizing
California State University Employees Union, SEIU Local 2579


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