Hank Fall 2016

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From the Desk of Henrietta: Performance Is a Union Issue

Health care workers filling in a huddle board in a clinic hallway

Union workers, such as SEIU-UHW member Sylvia Reynoso (writing on the board), should have more opportunities to learn about and take part in performance improvement efforts, says our guest columnist. 

How to remove roadblocks to workers' participation

Henrietta is on vacation. This guest column is by Michael Aidan, who represents clinical lab scientists and others in Northern California. He chaired the Coalition of Kaiser Permanente Unions executive board in 2014–2015.

Workers—and the unions that represent them—care about performance. Kaiser Permanente employees come to work to ensure patients and members deliver the highest quality of care and service. Everything they do, almost without exception, is focused on this. 

So I was dismayed when I recently attended KP’s Associate Improvement Advisor training, meant specifically for frontline workers, and saw very few union faces at the table. I know that many would want that training. And I believe employers should recognize the benefits—and justice—of having frontline workers with an equal voice in performance improvement.

Our National Agreement provides a vehicle for union workers to be actively engaged in performance
 improvement. Unit-based teams, co-led by union members, are embedded in KP operations. Yet union members run into roadblocks when seeking training or a seat at the strategic planning table. That lessens the contributions all workers could be making—and discourages many from fully engaging with their teams.

Our coalition is stepping up efforts with KP to expand opportunities for workers in performance improvement efforts, enable workers and unions to help shape needed innovations, and build union capacity to give workers the tools and support they need.

This will remove barriers we face that have outlived their time, and enhance patient care and service.

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