How Our Kaiser Partnership Works

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For our Kaiser members, our union has a number of specialized committees, roles, and leadership positions that are meant to maintain what is broadly called the “partnership.” In an effort to work collaboratively through interest-based problem solving, our leadership roles are often specific to this unique Alliance-bargained position. This means that those with outside union experience may not know how this system works, so we have created a basic rundown of the different “partnership leadership roles that you might encounter or could seek to inhabit yourself!

Labor Partners are elected members of the rank and file, who have been released for position for a term of up to three years.. They continue to draw their regular pay from Kaiser, but they represent the union. They bring concerns of the membership to management, and represent our interests as workers within the LMP. Each labor partner is paired with a third- or fourth-tier Kaiser manager (eg, hospital director) and is responsible for the same area as that manager. For instance, we have a labor partner for each hospital, one for primary-care clinics, one for specialty care, etc. The labor partner is responsible for 1.) meeting regularly with management and physicians at that level; 2.) conducting the elections for UBT co-leads; 3.) supporting and sponsoring UBTs; and 4.) recruiting, training, and appointing all union members on joint labor-management committees. Labor partners are also often called upon to lead formal negotiations within their areas and to serve on region-wide labor-management committees, among other tasks. Labor partners should work closely with IOs and stewards in all of this work.

Contract Specialists are selected stewards who are "on release" to do the work of the union. They continue to draw their regular pay from Kaiser. They typically serve for a term of one year. They are considered subject matter experts in grievance management, higher level issues and impact and contract bargaining. Recruiting and mentoring new stewards is a core part of the Contract Specialist’s role. Contract Specialists are required to be stewards themselves; when a position opens up, any steward can apply, and a candidate will be selected by a committee of stewards headed by the bargaining-unit chair. There are currently several Contract Specialist positions that are available to interested stewards, including one each for Inpatient RNs, Outpatient RNs, Pros and a shared Contract Specialist for Lab Pros and RDH.

UBT Co-Lead. Each “natural work group” at Kaiser—usually this just is a department, but sometimes related departments are grouped together—has a unit-based team, which consists of all the union members (not just from OFNHP but from the other partnership unions as well) plus the manager. The union members elect a co-lead from their ranks, who is required to be a steward or to become a steward within six months. The UBT co-lead, together with the manager and assisted by the other stewards in the department, leads the team as they work together on whatever projects they want to do to improve their workplace. Crucially, the UBT co-lead must always be mindful of the contract and should reject any proposals that would undermine our contractual rights or which would require formal negotiation. UBT co-leads are elected for a term of two years and can be re-elected. Management is to give the UBT co-lead release time to do the administrative work of the UBT, usually at least one shift per month in addition to the UBT meeting.

Improvement Advisors (IA) are a group of both union members who are released from their regular jobs and paid by the LMP trust fund and also some management personnel. IAs help UBTs function better, mainly through technical assistance with the necessary administrative work. (IAs are not responsible for aligning UBTs with the union’s goals: that is the job of the union sponsor, who is usually the labor partner.) IA is a long-term position, and union members apply to and are hired by the regional office of the Alliance.

Alliance Partnership Representative (APR) is also a long-term position hired by the regional office of the Alliance and paid out of the LMP trust fund. APRs are responsible for enforcing and implementing the national contract. To this end, they are our lead representatives on many of the most important regional labor-management committees. They also support steward councils, where our stewards meet each month for training and coordination; as well as care councils, which are venues for related UBTs to coordinate projects. APRs also work half-time as IAs.

Steward-Council Chair. Each steward council has a chair, elected from its ranks. The steward-council chair presides over the meetings, but, perhaps even more importantly, plans the agenda, arranging for trainings and presentations, reminds absent stewards to attend, stays aware of important topics for discussion, etc. The steward-council chair should be released to attend the meetings, like any other steward, and management is also obliged to release them for four hours per month to do the administrative work and agenda planning.