Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Meet SEIU-UHW’s Wellness Ambassadors at Kaiser!

It looks like the top officials at SEIU and Kaiser Permanente were so anxious to launch their wellness program that they began implementing the program even before SEIU-UHW’s members had actually approved it during a ratification vote!

Check out the minutes from the June 1st meeting of SEIU-UHW’s Steward Council at Kaiser Santa Rosa Medical Center in Northern California. (SEIU-UHW’s “ratification vote” wasn’t finished until June 8).

According to the minutes, a Kaiser official instructed SEIU-UHW’s shop stewards about “Wellness Ambassadors,” exercise recommendations, and other issues. Here are excerpts from the minutes:

The minutes also offer a variety of other exciting news about Kaiser's wellness program, such as “Mix It Up” (a virtual juice blender that monitors employees’ food intake via online accounts) and an upcoming “Family Wellness Festival.”

So what’s going on?

During recent contract negotiations, SEIU-UHW agreed to implement Kaiser’s wellness program, which is called “Total Health.” Under the program, Kaiser will collect and monitor workers’ “biometric risk indicators,” including their body mass index (BMI), smoking rates, cholesterol, and blood pressure levels.

Future bonuses will be tied to whether workers can reduce their “biometric indicators” and save Kaiser money. “The Total Health Program is a long-term business strategy for KP,” says SEIU’s new contract.

To implement the program, top officials from SEIU and Kaiser will develop a “Total Health Communication Plan” and will use Unit-Based Teams (UBTs) to push the program through the workforce.

That’s where “Wellness Ambassadors” fit in. Under SEIU’s new contract, Kaiser and SEIU will create Wellness Ambassadors -- “dedicated workplace leaders so that work teams can take ownership of employee health and wellness,” according to SEIU's contract language. Some workers are calling them “wellness cops” who’re now responsible for pushing wellness assessments, pedometers, team salad days, and whatever new-fangled forms of social pressure might be dreamed up by Dave Regan, John August and Kaiser's executives.

Interestingly, even as Regan and Kaiser say workers’ individual choices are to blame for higher health costs, many researchers are pointing to societal factors. Like bad bosses!

Check out this study by Swedish researchers that found that workers with bad bosses suffered higher rates of stress, heart disease and deaths by heart attack. Here’s a quick video -- called “Is Your Boss Killing You?” -- that features a Canadian wellness expert talking about the study. Interesting, huh? Tasty wonders what effects an incompetent, company-dominated union like SEIU-UHW can have on workers’ health?

P.S. Check out the latest article on wellness programs, which was published several hours ago: "Wellness Programs Prove Messy at Work." It includes excerpts like this one: 

A few booths over [at the annual human resources convention], a 20-something saleswoman dressed in a polo shirt described what happened when she demonstrated her company's wellness tracking software to a chief executive. "When he realized our product lets him see who meets certain fitness goals each week and who doesn't, he asked, 'You mean I can fire people who doesn't make the cut?'"