related unions

Partnership Day at FMCS Chicago

While some SHARE staff organizers were in for the long-haul at the FMCS Conference this week, other SHARE leaders made a quick hop out to Chicago and back for the kickoff event: Partnership Day. (It made for a long day . . . but some SHARE folks had to be back for contract negotiations early the next morning.)
A strong union is necessary for
a strong partnership, says
Tom Kochan of MIT

Partnership Day showcased six union-management partnerships that have survived and even thrived for more than a decade. Two groups talked about partnerships in healthcare: Kaiser Permanente and the Coalition of KP Unions, and LA County Health Agency and the Service Employees International Union. (Click here for the full list and agenda.)  

The keynote speaker for the event was former U.S. Secretary of Labor, Robert Reich.

"Over and over, each group talked about how hard it is work in partnership. It's easier to go the traditional way, and be adversarial. But they also said the results are better in partnership: better for the employees, the patients, and for management," said SHARE Organizer, Janet Wilder.

SHARE Organizer Will Erickson's take-away idea was that any Labor-Management partnership--however well-developed, strategically planned, and strong it may seem--is always fragile.

Both SHARE and UMass Memorial management learned
about union-management partnerships in Chicago:
Kati Korenda, Senior Director,
Heart and Vascular Center of Excellence,
and Bobbi-Jo Lewis, SHARE Co-President
Kati Korenda of the Heart and Vascular Center told us that she was struck by the story of International Paper, which, in its long history, had its share of labor-management strife, including strikes and lockouts; at a critical moment, however, they turned around the direction of their relationship, and their partnership has led the company to new vibrancy and success.

Each time SHARE talks with union folks from Kaiser Permanente, we learn more about how we might work in partnership at UMass Memorial, and what we might get out of it. Denise Duncan, President of UNAC/AFSCME, which represents RNs in Southern California told us over dinner, 
"I was against this at first. But now I'm convinced that partnership is the way to go. We have UNAC members who work at Kaiser Permanente and at other more traditional employers, so I see the difference every day. Our members at Kaiser have better contracts, and a better experience day-to-day at work."

Partnership Day panel, with the Kaiser group on the left,
Joel Cutcher-Gershenfeld,
and the LA County group on the far right.

One Kaiser Permanente Unit-Based Team, and $47,000 Worth of IUDs

The hospital workers from Kaiser Permanente that I met at IHI all seemed so proud of the work their unit-based teams are doing.

A good example are the three co-leads of a unit-based team from the OB/Gyn clinic of Kaiser Permanente Los Angeles Medical Center: Richardson, the manager; Brittanye an LVN (Licensed Vocational Nurse, like our LPNs); and Marcia, a Nurse Practitioner. Brittanye and Marcia are both union leaders, from 2 different unions.

How Unit-Based Teams Change the Day-to-Day Experience at Work at Kaiser

When I asked how the unit-based team changes work for her, Brittanye told me, “You have more input. It makes us feel better because our voice is heard. When we are asked, we feel we are going to be listened to…. It’s more collaborative, not management saying ‘this is how it’s going to be.’ We can make it better and get the job done.”

Richardson, the clinic manager, said their unit-based team collapsed the first time they tried to get it going, but now it's thriving. “Finally we have a team where we all listen to each other. We aren’t just talking at each other… We respect each other. I want our department to shine. I have pride in my department, and I trust my employees. I have pride in what we work on together. I listen to what they say. It fills me with joy to see them thinking outside the box, and to see how much they care about the patients.”

Harvesting Old IUDs to Improve Work and Patient Care

One of this unit-based teams projects was setting up a process to return unneeded IUDs, which are worth about $500 each when returned to the company. Creating a new, and smooth, process to make sure the IUDs didn’t get trashed involved the front desk, the Medical Assistants, the physicians, and the LVNs.  As Richardson said, “It wouldn’t be successful if we didn’t have the engagement of everyone.”

Over 11 months, the OB/Gyn clinic saved $47,000 by returning IUDs. Brittanye said they were able to buy 5 new ultrasound probes with the money they saved last year. “That increases access for our patients, and they have to wait less. The staff is happier and it’s not as stressful.”

Why Kaiser and the Unions Created Unit-Based Teams

The coalition of unions at Kaiser and Kaiser Permanente management negotiated to put in their contract a system of unit-based teams in every department. Unit-based teams tap into the knowledge and experience of front-line staff, managers and physicians. According to the Kaiser Permanente Labor Management Partnership website, “These teams are transforming Kaiser Permanente by changing the roles of union members and managers and creating an environment in which all employees are encouraged to think critically about problem solving and work innovations.”

SHARE and UMass Memorial senior management have invited a union and a management representative of the Kaiser Permanent Labor Management Partnership to visit UMass Memorial, to explain how their unit-based teams work. 

(The first 2 pictures show the OB/Gyn Unit-Based Team at a celebration of unit-based teams' work. The 3rd picture shows the three co-leads that I met at IHI -- Brittanye, Richardson, and Marcia.  -- Janet Wilder)

Looking at How Other Hospital Unions Are Making Work Better

One main focus of the upcoming contract negotiations for SHARE will be improving the day-to-day experience for SHARE members. To prepare, SHARE is looking at what other hospitals and unions are doing.

The annual IHI (Institute for Healthcare Improvement) conference is a great place to meet people doing innovative work. IHI is a world leader in the effort to improve healthcare, and to make good care available to everyone. The conference brings together healthcare leaders, front-line employees, nurses, doctors, medical students, administrators, and a few of us from organized labor. It was inspiring to be with over five thousand people from all over the world who are trying to make their hospitals better.

Highlights from other unions:
  • UNITE HERE, a union that represents hotel workers in Los Angeles, is running classes for their members (voluntary, of course) in self-management of chronic disease. Many members are feeling healthier, and they are keeping the costs of their health insurance down. (For more info, see link to video, link to report with health outcomes data.)
  • CIR (the Committee of Interns and Residents, a union of doctors), teaches process improvement to new doctors, who are motivated to gain those skills and experiences to use in their careers. You can read about them here, here and here.
  • I got to learn a lot more about the Labor Management Partnership at Kaiser Permanente. The best part was meeting the union & manager co-leaders of unit-based teams in their departments. Kaiser rewards the 30 best unit-based teams every year by sending the co-lead to the IHI conference.
  •  I went to a workshop from Kaiser called "Workers and Patients: A Single Culture of Safety" where they said that the best prevention for injuries is to have a good team, where workers feel free to speak up when they see something that could be improved.
The Labor Management Partnership at Kaiser Permanente is really changing the role of frontline staff at their hospitals, and we want to learn a lot more about how they are doing it. This week, we are hosting a series of meetings with a union and a management leader from Kaiser Permanente -- more on that soon.

Pictured: Maggie Ridings, LPN (right) and Jane Baxter, Nurse Manager. Maggie and Jane are co-leads of a unit-based team in the OB/Gyn department and clinic in Alpharetta, Georgia. One of their team's projects was to develop a system to help their patients be sure to pick the right hospital for their delivery, saving their patients money and helping Kaiser Permanente to keep their healthcare affordable. In another project, they built a garden to encourage healthy living for patients and staff. 

In Support of Collective Bargaining

SHARE and friends on Beacon Hill
[click photo for larger image]

SHARE staff organizers past and present joined with sister organizations HUCTW and TEA among those at Tuesday's State House rally to support collective bargaining in Wisconsin and beyond.

Photo credit goes to former SHARE organizer Janet Wilder. (And look, too! Will's little girl Hannah is getting big!)

SHARE: as seen on the TEA website!

We recently got a warm hello--and an exciting new update--from our friends at the Tufts Employee Association. Former SHARE organizers Will Erickson and Janet Wilder are currently helping support staff at Tufts University to create their own union.  When they heard about our website, they asked me to say hi, and that they miss their old friends at UMass Memorial!

Will and Janet and their friends are also excited to brag about their own new website, which includes a spotlight on SHARE members. The TEA site has a full page of SHARE members describing their experience at UMass Memorial. Check it out:

The Tufts Employee Association would be open to clerical and technical workers on all three of Tufts major campuses--including the nearby Grafton veterinary school, as well as those in Boston and Medford. If you would like to share your own SHARE experience, let us know. And if you know someone who works at Tufts, we would be happy to know that, too. The organizing staff would love to meet them!