Kaiser Permanente and the Coalition of Kaiser Permanente Unions, AFL-CIO, forged a Labor Management Partnership Agreement in 1997. The agreement followed more than a decade of pitched battles – including a series of strikes and jobs actions – which left both unions and management agreeing on the need to radically change our relationship.
Rather than respond to aggressive competition from non-union, for profit HMOs by fighting each other, we decided to join together. We envisioned an organizational transformation that would support our common goals. We knew our future success would depend on our ability to create workplaces that would encourage union members’ full participation.
Goals of the Labor Management Partnership: The goal the 1997 LMP agreement is to demonstrate that Partnership produces “superior health care outcomes, market leading competitive performance, and a superior workplace for Kaiser Permanente employees.” The LMP has these additional goals: Improve quality health care for Kaiser Permanente members and the communities we serve. Assist Kaiser Permanente in achieving and maintaining market leading competitive performance. Make Kaiser Permanente a better place to work
Kaiser Permanente and the union coalition have a common history and social mission. In the 1940s, our organization and the labor movement made history by changing the face of health care. Kaiser Permanente was actually built with help from the unions, dedicated to providing – for the first time in American history – affordable, quality health care for 30,000 workers building World War II ships in Richmond. In fact, KP was once so closely identified with unions and working people that during the 1950s, most large employers (as well as the American Medical Association) were openly hostile to the organization, and Kaiser Permanente relied on unions to provide almost all of its health plan members. By 1997, we knew it was time to return to our roots of working together, with a new competitive strategy.
The Coalition of Kaiser Permanente Unions, AFL-CIO, is made up of six international unions and 29 local unions representing more than 82,000 employees. About 20,000 managers and some 12,000 physicians are also covered by the agreement. It affects the more than 8.3 million health plan members of Kaiser Permanente.
Departments across the organization are at different stages of implementing the Partnership. The success of the Partnership ultimately depends on the relationship between the supervisor and the union steward in each department. The goal, which is already working in some departments, is for union-management teams to provide joint, equal leadership on key decisions regarding day-to-day operations.
The Labor Management Partnership is governed by the LMP Strategy Group, a senior leadership team composed of union, management, and physician leaders. Regional joint leadership bodies oversee LMP organizational change efforts in Northern California, Southern California, the Northwest, Colorado, Ohio, Georgia, and the Mid-Atlantic States regions.