The Kaiser Permanente Labour–Management Partnership: 1997–2013

  • Thomas.A. Kochan


Labor–management partnerships are hard to sustain over long periods of time. Most encounter and fail to survive some type of crisis such as the turnover of initial champions, a significant change in economic conditions, a change in ownership, the rise of opposition within union or employer ranks, or a breakdown of trust due to some action one or both parties deem inconsistent with partnership principles. In this chapter we present a case study of the Kaiser Permanente (KP) Labor–Management Partnership (LMP), a partnership that has endured as of the time of this writing for 18 years. It has done so even though it has experienced many of the crises listed above—what we and others (Cutcher-Gershenfeld et al. 2015) call “pivotal events.” This is all the more remarkable because the KP LMP stands as the largest and most comprehensive and complex labor–management partnership in American labor history, covering over 100,000 employees, 10 different national unions, and 26 local unions in an industry, health care, that has been undergoing substantial change over the life of the partnership. Moreover, the parties turned around an organization that was losing substantial money and at risk of being disbanded into two separate entities and in which labor–management conflict was escalating toward a crisis point to one that has generated consistent positive financial results, improved the quality of health care delivered, improved employee satisfaction, and become a leader in introducing electronic medical record technologies. As such, it is both the most resilient and perhaps, to date, the most successful labor–management partnership in American history. What follows is a case study of the partnership from its inception in 1997 through 2013, the point our formal tracking of the partnership ended.


Union Leader National Labour Relation Board Bargaining Unit Pivotal Event Define Benefit Pension 
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Copyright information

© The Editor(s) (if applicable) and The Author(s) 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  • Thomas.A. Kochan
    • 1
  1. 1.MIT Sloan School of Management and Institute for Work and Employment ResearchCambridgeUSA

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