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Kaiser Permanente
kaiser.jpg America’s leading integrated healthcare organization believes that partnering with employees and their unions empowers workers and provides patients with higher quality care.


A voice on the job means better patient care

At a Glance

Kaiser Permanente is one of America’s leading integrated healthcare organizations.  Founded in 1945, it is a nonprofit health plan that serves the healthcare needs of its members across the country.

Oakland, CA



Union Employees
80,000 healthcare workers and support staff

Total Employees

Annual Revenues
$22-25 billion

30 hospitals and 431 medical buildings in CA, CO, DC, GA, HI, MD, OH, OR, VA, and WA.


8.3 million health plan members

In 1997, after years of clashing with unions, Kaiser Permanente opted for collaboration and agreed to voluntarily recognize unions formed by its employees.  Together with its workers and their unions, the healthcare company embarked on an organizational change that would benefit management, the employees, and the patients they serve. The union-management partnership has been a major factor in the company’s turnaround since its financial troubles in the late 1990s and has contributed to its successful navigation of the turmoil in the managed care industry.

In 2000, during the renegotiation of the contracts, Kaiser Permanente and its employees’ unions established a national bargaining agreement. The new contract created task groups of managers and union representatives to make collaborative recommendations on patient quality and service, worker health and safety, performance and workforce development, wages, benefits, balance of personal- and work-life, and a variety of other issues.

For many employees in the healthcare industry, the opportunity to participate in decision-making and negotiate the terms and conditions of their employment is directly related to providing quality care to patients. Kaiser now promotes its labor-management partnership as a method of valuing input from its employees who directly serve its health plan members. Management clearly understands that high performance in the organization grows out of entrusting each worker to help identify and solve problems, create business plans, and define work processes. Therefore, Kaiser’s goal is to involve employees in all aspects of decision-making. Company managers have found that the results are better decisions and improved morale, even when making decisions is difficult.

In Kaiser Permanente’s Ohio region, employees were involved in deciding how to preserve quality care and working conditions while the company faced more than $8 million in cuts to the state operating budget—a frequent occurrence in the industry. Managers, union leaders, staff, and physicians worked together to develop creative solutions. Although a number of union jobs were eliminated, the partnership managed to transfer employees, shift hours, and offer early retirement and fair severance packages. Their efforts resulted in minimal displacement of employees.

Since Kaiser implemented this joint partnership model, the company has experienced a 20 percent reduction in workplace injuries nationally, higher patient satisfaction, lower costs, improved retention rates and job satisfaction, and better performance on a range of indicators. This summer, Kaiser Permanente and its unions negotiated a new five-year national agreement, further strengthening and extending their partnership with a renewed commitment to improving healthcare delivery in all their clinics, hospitals, and offices.

Selection Criteria

> Free and fair choice to form a union

> Collaborating as equal partners with workers and their unions to craft innovative strategies on compensation, performance, and productivity to meet business goals and address challenges

> Creating new jobs and implementing
employee retention strategies

> Providing sustainable wages or progressive increases and worker-friendly benefits

> Offering training and professional
development opportunities

> Contributing positively to the broader