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HNA leader says partnership helps union engagement

Joan Craft grew up in Hawaii, went to the mainland to study nursing and eventually returned home to work at The Queen’s Medical Center. Her first experience as a member of the Hawaii Nurses Association? Going on strike.

While the lengthy dispute made her more dedicated to the union, it’s not an experience she would wish for other nurses. That’s why Craft—now president of the 4,000-member HNA, OPEIU Local 50—invests so much time and energy in the 800-member Kaiser Permanente unit.

“The LMP (Labor Management Partnership) is about the company working with the unionized workforce for mutual benefit,” Craft says. “Together, the standards are being set. Otherwise, things do not improve by osmosis.”

HNA is the lone partnership union in the Hawaii region, and the unit-based teams there consist mainly of nurses. Craft sees her members, one by one, growing empowered by the training and day-to-day focus on interest-based problem solving, consensus decision making and performance improvement.

“I tell others it’s ultimately the best path to better pay, increased safety and greater job satisfaction,” she says.

Lessons from the partnership

Nurse-led UBTs in Hawaii have solved issues regarding patient-handling injuries, excessive overtime, and quality of care and service. Even in the most challenging of times, Craft says, KP nurses often have a greater voice in their work than nurses in bargaining units at other employers. And she doesn’t hesitate to bring lessons from her KP unit to others.

“I like the Value Compass. When I speak to them (other units), I bring it out and show them,” Craft says. “Of course, other employers have a system to improve patient care. But here, partnership means placing the patient in the center of everything they do, all while holding the employer and employees to the same expectations.”

Despite the visibility of the Value Compass and the partnership, Craft says, there still are folks in management and on the union side who could be more engaged.

“Both sides need to realize that the union can be an asset to the employer,” she says. “There are so many regulations and requirements, and employers, members and employees are all trying to find out what the heck is happening. Union members have an incredible opportunity to inform the employer about the work.”

Joan Craft
Both sides need to realize that the union can be an asset to the employer.
Joan Craft
President of the 4,000-member HNA, OPEIU Local 50

The path to solutions

“Nurses get a great deal of satisfaction from doing their jobs well,” Craft says. “The partnership is a reminder to us that if they can actively identify a problem with the work, they can get things in the workplace solved.”

Craft says empowered union members are central to promoting the comprehensive preventive care philosophy of Kaiser Permanente.

“With our new union members, it’s important to get them engaged in the LMP culture early and explain why it’s in their interest to participate, why it’s important for them to embrace it.

“Everybody has a role to play,” she says. “Everybody has a duty to pay attention. Some people are still asking, ‘Why should I care?’ or ‘Why should I take on something extra?’

“As a leader, I can frame the benefits for my members. People have to get there.”

Team Members - ColorUBT Successes in Hawaii

Putting together the requisite elements of partnership has helped nurses and their management co-leads in Hawaii make great strides.

Here are a couple of ways they've positively impacted their workplace.

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