What is the Labor Management Partnership?

The Labor Management Partnership is Kaiser Permanente’s strategy for transformation and high performance. We use the Value Compass, which puts the member at the center of every decision, to focus our teams on achieving the highest quality, the best service, the most affordable care and the best place to work. These achievements are created by high-performing teams that engage physicians, managers and frontline workers in ensuring that each patient has the best possible experience.

The strategy has led to measurable results:

  • Frontline teams across Kaiser Permanente are giving patients who come in for any appointment “care-gap” summaries showing any tests, immunizations or screenings they are overdue for—a strategy creduted with saving 1,500 lives a year in Southern California alone.
  • Colorado and Ohio have set up walk-in mammogram clinics resulting in more x-rays and fewer missed appointments.
  • An operating room in a Southern California hospital has decreased turnaround time between surgeries.
  • An Ohio lab has cut patient wait times, improved service and seen patient satisfaction scores jump by about 15%.
  • An orthopedic surgery and sports medicine team in Northern California increased osteoporosis screenings for at-risk patients to 71 percent, from less than 20 percent in one year, becoming one of the highest performers in the region.
  • The Environmental Services Department in the Northwest region went from being one of the most-injured workgroups in any region to being one of the least, achievng nearly a five-fold improvement in safety in just one year.
Jump to History of the LMP

How does it work?

Partnership brings managers, frontline workers and physicians together to make full use of each group’s—and each individual’s—expertise. These different perspectives help to bring about solutions that address and resolve systemic issues, improving service, the quality of care, and eliminating waste that drives up costs. Frontline employees, who do the job every day, are able to offer innovative solutions to the problems at hand. Stewards are evolving into work-unit leaders. Managers are moving away from directing how work is done and into coaching and mentoring roles. Physicians are supported in providing high quality, compassionate patient-centered care. For members and patients, the entire care experience improves.

Unit-based teams

As of January 2012, more than 3,400 unit-based teams made up of workers, managers and physicians were in place across Kaiser Permanente. A UBT includes all the members of a natural work group and focuses on improving performance in that area. A UBT may function within a department or, when the nature of the work is interdependent, it may draw its members from across department lines. UBTs are an organizational structure, a platform for doing the work that needs to be done. Their work is closely aligned with regional business priorities.

“The UBTs unleash the knowledge of the workers,” says Dr. Ben Chu, president of Kaiser Foundation Health Plan and Hospitals in Southern California.

Continuous improvement

Modern healthcare is a constantly changing environment, with quick responses needed to address all manner of change, from competitive pressures and changing regulations to technological advances. The rapid improvement model gives employees and physicians an easy four-step process—plan, do, study, act—for adapting to change quickly, on the job, and working daily to improve performance. Each person has two primary responsibilities: to do his or her job well, and to actively seek out new ways to do the job better.

Kaiser Permanente’s historic mission and model of care—our unique system of high quality, affordable care for working families—have served our members and communities well for more than 60 years. To transform Kaiser Permanente to be the future of health care and to safeguard our social mission, we focus every day on what is best for each member and patient.

We’re changing to meet the challenges we face—and that means every worker, manager and physician needs to think and work differently in their day-to-day jobs. Our unique care model and our shared focus on our members and patients is leading the way to a health care solution for our country. 

History of the Labor Management Partnership

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 the future Kaiser Permanente. From a customer base that was almost exclusively union members, Kaiser Permanente grew into the largest nonprofit health care organization in the country.

In fact, KP was so closely identified with unions and working people in its early years that during the 1950s, most large employers were openly hostile to the organization. The prepaid plan was denounced as socialized medicine by the American Medical Association. But the unions publicly defended KP and came to its aide by providing almost all of its health plan members. More than 60 years on, a wide range of families and individuals receive KP’s quality health care.

Today, an innovative partnership among Kaiser Permanente managers, workers and physicians—the Labor Management Partnership—honors that early cooperative spirit between the company and its union employees. The Partnership is the largest and most comprehensive of its kind and is credited with yielding superior health care results and a high-performance workplace.

The Labor Management Partnership was founded after years of labor turmoil within Kaiser Permanente and competitive pressures within the health care industry. In 1995, 26 local unions representing KP workers formed the Coalition of Kaiser Permanente Unions to better coordinate bargaining strategy. In 1997, Kaiser Permanente and the Union Coalition created the LMP as a way to transform the relationship and the organization. Today the LMP covers some 92,000 union-represented employees (about 80 percent of all union-represented employees at KP) as well as 25,000 managers and 16,000 physicians in California, Washington, Oregon, Colorado, Georgia, Ohio and the Washington, D.C., metro region.

For more information, please visit www.LMPartnership.org

Chronology of the Labor Management Partnership

1995 Coalition of Kaiser Permanente Unions formed
1997 Labor Management Partnership agreement signed
1999 Employment Security Agreement reached
2000 First National Agreement ratified
2005 Second National Agreement ratified
2008 Reopener ratified
2010 Third National Agreement ratified
2012 Bargaining of Fourth National Agreement begins

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