When Henry J. Kaiser and Dr. Sidney Garfield created a health plan for Kaiser’s shipyard and construction workers in the 1930s and '40s, they laid the foundation for Kaiser Permanente. From an initial customer base consisting almost entirely of union members, Kaiser Permanente grew into the largest nonprofit health care organization in the country, serving a wide range of members. Today, the Labor Management Partnership (LMP), an innovative relationship among Kaiser Permanente managers, workers and physicians, is the largest and most comprehensive partnership of its kind.
The Labor Management Partnership started in 1997, emerging from mounting strife between Kaiser Permanente and its unions that threatened to derail the organization. Instead of continuing a traditional approach and launching a campaign against KP that ultimately could damage the organization—and the workers it employed—the Coalition of Kaiser Permanente Unions approached KP leaders with an idea for how to do things differently. In forming the partnership, the parties agreed to work collaboratively to improve the quality of care for KP’s members and communities and help KP lead the market in health care, while providing job security and the best place to work for its employees.
Today the Labor Management Partnership covers more than 100,000 union employees, 14,000 managers and 18,000 physicians in seven states and Washington, D.C.
Over the years, the two parties have worked together on such policy issues as nurse-to-patient staffing ratios and health care reform. They have bargained four National Agreements using an interest-based approach and ratified groundbreaking accords like the Employment and Income Security Agreement. Perhaps the most ambitious endeavor was launching 3,500 unit-based teams that work on improving care, service and affordability every day.
Working in collaboration
On a day-to-day basis, partnership means that workers, managers and physicians share decision making and problem solving by staying grounded in their common interests. Employees, managers and physicians work in unit-based teams—collaborative work groups that improve quality and service and make KP more affordable as part of their ongoing work. Partnership is credited not only with improving patient care and satisfaction, but in making Kaiser Permanente a better place to work by giving employees a voice on the job. For more information about today’s LMP, see What Is Partnership?
A journey, not a destination
LMP leaders have described partnership’s evolution as one from LMP 1.0, the early years of laying the foundation for working relationships, to LMP 2.0, which has brought the advancement of performance improvement through UBTs. But there is still much work to be done before partnership is a seamless way we do business.
In the coming years, LMP 3.0 will require us to use our unique Labor Management Partnership as a strategic differentiator to help Kaiser Permanente lead in performance, growth, total health, labor relations and building the workforce of the future.