Kaiser Permanente and the Alliance of Health Care Unions

The Value of a Healthy, Happy Workforce

Kathy Gerwig and Meg Niemi

Kathy Gerwig, vice president of employee safety, health and wellness (left) and Meg Niemi, president of SEIU Local 49, co-led the Total Health and Workplace Safety bargaining subgroup.

Bargaining subgroup connects a great work environment to the delivery of great care

Finding ways to help Kaiser Permanente employees enjoy long, healthy, productive lives is the mission of the Total Health and Workplace Safety subgroup.

The subgroup, one of three in national bargaining this year, will expand upon the achievements of the 2012 National Agreement. It will also address how Kaiser Permanente and the Coalition of Kaiser Permanente Unions can partner to improve the total health of the communities we serve.

Delivering exceptional care and service and supporting a healthier, injury-free workforce go hand in hand.We can’t provide quality, affordable care to our members and communities unless we first provide a safe and respectful environment that promotes the collective health of our workforce,” says Kathy Gerwig, Kaiser Permanente’s vice president of employee safety, health and wellness and the management co-lead for the subgroup.

Personal and collective health

In 2012, negotiators established the groundbreaking Total Health Incentive Plan. The wellness program encourages employees to assess their own health and aim for collective improvement in measures like cholesterol and body mass index. In addition, healthy employees can serve as role models for Kaiser Permanente patients.

This year, the parties will suggest ways to create a healthier, safer work environment by improving employee access to services such as wellness coaching and better understanding trends in workplace violence and prevention. Another goal is to encourage employees to eat healthily, exercise at breaks and prevent workplace violence and intimidation.  

Expanding wellness to communities

In a first for national bargaining, the subgroup will also suggest ways to bring a holistic approach to wellness into communities Kaiser Permanente serves, especially those with limited access to healthy food, affordable health services and places to exercise.

“Our union members tend to live in communities that have high needs around health or issues around violence,” says Meg Niemi, the president of SEIU Local 49 and also a union co-lead for the subgroup. “So our members have an interest in their communities being healthier and safer further upstream, before they need critical care.”

The other two subgroups tasked with crafting recommendations are Work of the Future and Operational and Service Excellence in Partnership. (For more on Work of the Future, watch this slideshow and read this article.) Negotiators are developing a tentative agreement that will become the National Agreement after it is approved by Kaiser Permanente leadership and ratified by union locals this summer.

Visit bargaining2015.org for more information, videos and slideshows, and to sign up for bargaining updates.

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