Hank Summer 2015

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Free to Speak

4 women wearing black Free to Speak t-shirts

Workers and our organization thrive when everyone is free to speak. 

How unions help create KP's culture of openness

I’ve had the privilege of working for Kaiser Permanente for more than 30 years, and it was clear to me from day one that there is something different about our organization and the people who work here.

We’re big, with more than 175,000 employees and 18,000 physicians who provide coverage and care for more than 10 million members. What makes us unique, though, is our mission—to provide high-quality and affordable health care and to improve the health of our members and the communities we serve—and the actions, behaviors and decisions we take to support our mission. We walk the talk.

Our success these past 70 years has been the result of a lot of tremendous work and effort, individually and collectively, by hundreds of thousands of people. Today, we are fortunate to have great people working in all parts of the organization who are well-informed, highly motivated and focused on fulfilling our mission. We have leaders at every level who are delivering better health for all.

Early in my career at Kaiser Permanente, I gained an appreciation for the important role labor has played throughout our history. In fact, labor plays a broader and very different role at Kaiser Permanente than it does in many companies across America. Part of the reason we have worked well with labor is that even when we’ve had disagreements, unions have demonstrated a lasting interest in the success of Kaiser Permanente and the employees they represent, especially during challenging times.

I also have a personal appreciation for the role of labor in our society. My father belonged to a carpenters union. Unions were a voice advocating for the American dream for my family—saying my father should get work, he should be fairly paid, he should be treated right. My father had the jobs he had and the job protection he had because of the unions stepping up and speaking out.

At Kaiser Permanente, we place a tremendous value on creating and maintaining an environment where people not only feel comfortable speaking out but are encouraged to do so—and the Labor Management Partnership unions are actively supporting this culture. We want everyone in this organization sharing their best thinking every day, so we can create the best experiences for our members and patients, no matter where, when or how they come in contact with Kaiser Permanente—which is the essence of One KP.

As we look to the future, we need to continue to bring our best thinking forward during a time of dramatic change in health care. We need to have the mindset that we are going to embrace this change and lead the industry in charting the course for 21st century health in this country, so we can carry on the legacy of Kaiser Permanente for many years to come.

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