Posts Tagged ‘diversity’

Flash from the past – Kaiser Permanente Honored for Commitment to Diversity

posted on January 19, 2015

Lincoln Cushing
Heritage writer

File #4016 - Lobby at Richmond Field Hospital

Kaiser shipyard workers in Richmond Field Hospital lobby, circa 1943.

Kaiser Permanente has a long history of honoring and celebrating diversity. In 2004, the Martin Luther King Legacy Association and The Southern Christian Leadership Conference of Los Angeles presented Kaiser Permanente Southern California with the Corporate Responsibility Award in recognition of the organization’s commitment to diversity.

Kaiser Permanente was honored in this case for being one of the first health care providers in the United States to have racially integrated hospitals and waiting rooms, as well as an ethnically diverse workforce, including physicians and allied health professionals.

During World War II and afterwards, Oakland’s Permanente Foundation hospital (the first in what would later be called Kaiser Permanente) was a model for equal health care treatment regardless of race. In 1946, the year after the Health Plan was opened to the public, several local policemen visited it with an eye to join. Permanente medical economist Avram Yedidia recalled the event:

“. . . The police chief said to me, ‘You know, when we walked through, I saw that you had some Negroes and whites in the same room. I don’t think we like that.’ “As I can recall, I responded, ‘Do you know this plan started that way, with blacks and whites in the shipyards, and that’s the way it goes. They worked together, and they were sick together.’ ” I told the police chief: ‘Those who don’t like it shouldn’t join the plan.’ ”

Kaiser Permanente also made history in 1954, when Raleigh Bledsoe, MD, joined the then fledgling medical group in Southern California, as the first and only African-American board certified radiologist west of the Rockies.

 

Short link to this story: http://ow.ly/HApdr

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Breast cancer isn’t just a woman’s issue

posted on October 8, 2014

Lincoln Cushing
Heritage writer

Kaiser Permanente physician Monte Gregg Steadman (1921-2010) enjoyed a prestigious career as an outstanding head and neck surgeon and teacher. Throughout this conventional career, he also struggled against conformity, militarism, and prejudice in many ways, and made his mark as a committed humanitarian as well.

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“Breast cancer isn’t just a woman’s issue” poster, 2005

For a former military physician and athletic male who had played football at UCLA, perhaps being tackled by a potentially fatal disease revealed his bravery best. In 1966, Steadman was diagnosed with breast cancer and had a radical mastectomy, which he wryly noted “Ended his chance to be a world-class handball champion.”

This 2005 poster featuring Dr. Steadman was a stunning public education message about the disease few men think will affect them; that warning still rings true.

Confronting and overcoming obstacles

In 1954, when he was appointed chief of Head and Neck Surgery at the new Kaiser Permanente hospital on Geary Street in San Francisco, he was denied membership in the SF County Medical Society because he worked at KP. “It was felt at the time that we were a threat to private practice,” he later said.

In 1969, he met and mentored a young plastic surgery resident at Stanford Medical Center, Dr. Robert Pearl, now the executive director and CEO of The Permanente Medical Group. TPMG’s 8,000 physicians serve KP in all of Northern California. Steadman retired from Kaiser in 1982.

An item in the December, 1959 staff newsletter KP Reporter described another way in which he defied conventional norms:

Drs. Monte Steadman and John E. Hodgekiss came down from San Francisco to help us out in ENT clinic. Dr. Steadman’s method of transportation fascinated us to no end as he arrived on his dashing motorcycle equipped with crash helmet and suede jacket. Behind him rode his briefcase and necessary charts, neatly tied to the seat with nylon cord. Ah, how wonderful it is to be young!

Dr. Steadman was equally outspoken about social injustice. In 1962 his strong anti-war beliefs drew him and two other men to sail into an atomic test zone off Johnson Island in the Pacific Ocean in an attempt to stop the test and draw international attention to nuclear disarmament.

The following year a KP Reporter article described further his commitment to social change:

Dr. Monte Steadman at KP SF, KP Reporter May 1963.

Dr. Monte Steadman at KP SF, KP Reporter, 1963.

Dr. Monte Steadman, of ENT at Geary, appeared on TV station KQED recently. As a speaker on the program “Dissent,” he urged society to reject force and violence whose use we freely condemn in our enemies. He praised the Negroes of the South who, with their Northern supporters, are resisting injustice without retaliating in kind for the mindless violence done to them.

We salute the fearless physicians like Dr. Steadman who have contributed to the mission of Kaiser Permanente, which exists to “provide high-quality, affordable health care services and to improve the health of our members and the communities we serve.”

Kaiser Permanente continues to be a leader in tackling breast cancer, especially early detection. In 2012 the National Committee for Quality Assurance reported that KP breast cancer screening rates for women were the best among health care providers in all the regions KP served.

 

Short link to this article: http://bit.ly/1scZ0Yt

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Emmy Lou Packard – WWII shipyard magazine illustrator

posted on September 3, 2014

Lincoln Cushing
Heritage writer

The World War II Home Front demanded huge sacrifices from civilians, and the Kaiser shipyards saw people from all walks of life working side by side. My uncle was an anthropologist at UC Berkeley who spent four years as a marine steamfitter in Richmond; he also wrote for the weekly Kaiser Richmond shipyard magazine Fore ‘n’ Aft – whose staff editorial assistant was none other than the well-known contemporary artist Emmy Lou Packard.14_0715_03-sm

By the mid-1940s, California native Packard (1914-1998) was already a respected artist in the San Francisco Bay Area. She had received her Bachelor of Arts at UC Berkeley in 1936, where she had been arts editor of the Daily Californian and the campus literary magazine Occident. She was also the first female editor of the Pelican, the humor magazine. Packard later studied sculpture and fresco painting at the San Francisco Art Institute. She had befriended renowned Mexican artists Diego Rivera and Frida Kahlo, and after her first husband Burton Cairns’ tragic death in 1939 Packard went to Mexico where she lived and worked with the artistic couple.

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Emmy Lou Packard’s first Fore ‘n’ Aft illustration, July 28, 1944.

During World War II, Emmy Lou became a draftswoman at the Ames Shipbuilding and Drydock Company office in San Francisco, and later moved across the bay to work in the Kaiser Richmond shipyards. She first appeared in the Fore ‘n’ Aft masthead on June 16, 1944. Soon, in addition to her editorial work, Packard began to contribute art to the newspaper. She created scratchboard illustrations and drawings, drew a recurring single-frame cartoon “Shirley the Whirley” about an anthropomorphic rolling-and-turning shipyard crane with attitude, and collaborated on a cartoon strip called “Supermac,” which ran from September 8, 1944, through March 30, 1945.

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“Emmy Lou Packard talking to an unknown man at the Richmond shipyards. circa 1941–1945. Photographer unknown. Gelatin silver print. Collection of Oakland Museum of California. The Oakland Tribune Collection. Gift of Emmy Lou Packard.”

Her debut as a shipyard illustrator in Fore ‘n’ Aft was July 28, 1944, with a powerful depiction of D-Day, the Allied invasion of Normandy on June 6 that year. Artillery shells bursting in a night sky blasted above the fold, accompanying a first-hand account by former Richmond shipyard worker Richard Cox.

Although she would continue to create a few more major graphics, her forte became “spot illustrations”– those sweet, tiny images that break up type-heavy pages. Often, but not always, the graphics would accompany a specific article such as tips on workplace safety or healthy eating.

The illustrations were never credited, so identifying those done by Emmy Lou is an inexact process. Her son, Donald Cairns, has helped to try and confirm the approximately 100 illustrations she created over her 15 months at Fore ‘n’ Aft.

Packard’s lengthy obituary in the San Francisco Chronicle mentioned the approximately 100 paintings she made of shipyard scenes, but said nothing about her work on Fore ‘n’ Aft. Her son’s website honoring Packard’s career briefly mentions that stint without details, but until now no comprehensive survey of those illustrations has been available.

Such an omission can be explained by the unfortunate art world disinterest in something considered as lowly as labor newspaper illustrations as well as lack of access to the source material. The second limitation has now changed; this essay was made possible by a recent partnership between Kaiser Permanente Heritage Resources and the Richmond (California) Museum of History to digitize as many issues of Fore ‘n’ Aft as possible. The graphics displayed here are the fruit of that digital collaboration.

What do the illustrations reveal?

The Kaiser shipyards began making transport vessels for the British government in 1941, before the United States joined the war. Two magazines covered seven yards (The Bos’n’s Whistle was the publication for the Portland, Ore., area Kaiser shipyards), and many of the cartoons and illustrations in the early issues reflect what one would expect from a trade dominated by straight, white, male industrial laborers of the time – sexist, racist, and homophobic.

But as a vastly different Home Front workforce replaced them, editorial sensibilities evolved as well. What a difference it made to have a politically progressive woman wielding a pen. Packard’s work was patriotic without resorting to racist jabs or stereotypes; she portrayed workers with dignity and character. She drew women’s experiences from a woman’s point of view – numerous vignettes show children (one of her regular subjects later in life), shopping, home life, and the challenges of survival and adjustment in a tempestuous time.

When Packard left Fore ‘n’ Aft, the editors wrote a testimonial on October 26, 1945 attesting to her contribution:

“Emmy Lou Packard is a fine artist. She painted the people who work in the yards with a deftness and freshness. But more, she sketched and painted how these workers feel. She pictured man in the complicated throes of the huge shipyards, with twisting pipes and rolls of cable drums, boilers and ten-ton steel plates, and plate shop presses fifteen feet high. Always man was a part of this complexity and always he controlled the huge machines and materials.”

These are but a few examples of Emmy Lou Packard’s previously unexamined yet important work.

Exhibition of Packard’s work at the Rosie the Riveter / WWII Home Front National Park, Richmond, Calif., 9/5/2015-12/30/2015

Short link to this article: http://bit.ly/1uB7vLC

The wartime Kaiser shipyards offered extensive child care facilities and family health care. 1/26/1945

The wartime Kaiser shipyards offered extensive child care facilities and family health care. 1/26/1945

The pageant of around-the-clock workers arriving and departing from the yards was captured in this vignette. 3/9/1945

The pageant of around-the-clock workers arriving and departing from the yards was captured in this vignette. 3/9/1945

For many, the shipyards was the first experience in working alongside people of different races; here, black-white cooperation is graphically reinforced by the positive and negative shadowing of the ship they have built together behind them. 2/22/1945

For many people, the shipyards were their first experience in working alongside people of different races; here, black-white cooperation is graphically reinforced by the positive and negative shadowing of the ship they have built together behind them. 2/22/1945

Peacetime dreams became increasingly topical as the war neared its end; here, a couple contemplates the question that “You like pre-fabbed card, why not houses?” Henry J. Kaiser advocated mass-produced affordable housing. 3/9/1945

Peacetime dreams became increasingly topical as the war neared its end; here, a couple contemplates the question that “You like pre-fabbed cars, why not houses?” Henry J. Kaiser advocated mass-produced affordable housing. 3/9/1945

This hard-hat-wearing dinner-making mother succinctly shows women’s nonstop work at home and in shipyard production. 3/30/1945

This hard-hat-wearing dinner-making mother succinctly shows women’s nonstop work at home and in shipyard production. 3/30/1945

Humorous class commentary places this uncomfortable white-collar suit amidst a trolley full of shipyard overalls 7/13/1945

Humorous class commentary places this uncomfortable white-collar suit amidst a trolley full of shipyard overalls. 7/13/1945

Many Fore ‘n’ Aft articles featured the rich diversity of the labor force; this illustration about Latin American immigrant workers is beautifully rendered by Packard in a style that would have made Diego Rivera proud. 3/30/1945

Many Fore ‘n’ Aft articles featured the rich diversity of the labor force; this illustration about Latin American immigrant workers is beautifully rendered in a style that shows Diego Rivera’s influence. 3/30/1945

Shipyard production ran around the clock; this shows night shift workers talking to each other. 3/23/1945

Shipyard production ran around the clock; this shows night shift workers talking to each other. 3/23/1945

 

These images are from the digital collection of Fore ‘n’ Afts collaboratively produced by Kaiser Permanente Heritage Resources and the Richmond Museum of History.

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Labor unions offer early support for nascent Permanente Health Plan

posted on July 16, 2013
"Kaiser launches 747th - and last- wartime ship," article in the Oakland Tribune, August 13, 1945. Expanding the shipyard workers' health care plan to the public would be the birth of the Kaiser Permanente program.
“Kaiser launches 747th – and last- wartime ship,” article in the Oakland Tribune, August 13, 1945. Expanding the shipyard workers’ health care plan to the public sparked the birth of the Kaiser Permanente program.

by Lincoln Cushing, Heritage writer

As World War II neared an end, the Permanente Health Plan was looking at a dramatic shift in its member base. Wartime shipyard closures loomed, and the future of the plan during peacetime would hinge on attracting new members in the community.

Given Henry J. Kaiser’s support for labor, it was not surprising that labor unions were among the early member groups. Bay Area workers – Oakland city employees, union typographers, street car drivers and carpenters – embraced the Permanente Health Plan and its emphasis on preventive medicine.

One of the first and largest unions to endorse the plan was The International Longshoremen and Warehousemen Union.

On June 7, 1945, the Stewards and Executive Council of the ILWU’s Oakland unit voted unanimously to make coverage in the health insurance plan of the Permanente Foundation a part of its future negotiations with employers.  The executive council also requested that employers pay for the plan’s premiums.

We want our Permanente!

An article in the ILWU’s The Dispatcher explained:

“. . . Permanente operates on three principles: prepayment . . . group practice of medicine (the hospital has 84 doctors on its staff, many of them specialists . . . and adequate facilities.)”

Related to adequate facilities, the article noted that a group practice health plan like Permanente could afford the latest medical equipment, which individual, fee-for-service physicians did not have.

Preventive care takes center stage

“The most important provision of the plan . . . is that the first two visits to the hospital are included in the insurance.”

“A spokesman for (Permanente) explained that the hospital was interested in really affording the worker medical security. If the patient had to pay for the first two visits, he would be deterred from using the plan until an ailment became necessarily serious.”

“The hospital’s facilities are open to all groups with no segregation of patients because of creed or color,” the article reported.

Within five years, by 1950, ILWU president Harry Bridges had brought all 6,000 union members working up and down the West Coast into the Permanente Health Plan.

The union’s agreement with Permanente leader Sidney Garfield, MD, included opening a medical facility in San Pedro near Long Beach. Up to that point, the health plan had only one Southern California hospital, which provided care for the workers at the Kaiser Steel Plant in Fontana.

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LGBT fairness is a Kaiser Permanente standard

posted on June 27, 2013

By Lincoln Cushing, Heritage Writer

Kaiser Permanente nurse Sue Caulfield accepting fair workplace for LGBT employees award from Basic Rights Oregon, May 2, 2004.
Kaiser Permanente nurse Sue Caulfield accepting fair workplace for LGBT employees award from Basic Rights Oregon, May 2, 2004.
Photo: the Portland Observer

Basic civil rights for members and workers at Kaiser Permanente has been part of the culture for a long time. Here Kaiser Permanente nurse Sue Caulfield accepts the 2004 Fair Workplace Project Award from the Education Fund of Basic Rights Oregon for KP’s work in promoting a progressive environment for gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender employees. The award noted that the 7,000 workers in the Northwest region enjoyed policies such as equal benefits for same-sex partners and a program of culturally competent medical care.

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Edgar F. Kaiser – Kaiser Permanente civic leader

posted on January 29, 2013

Edgar F. Kaiser, president, Kaiser Industries Corporation; Henry J. Kaiser, founder and chairman of the board. Photo, 1962.

Lincoln Cushing, Heritage writer

 

Recently the Heritage team was asked to provide inspirational quotes from Kaiser Permanente’s founders for inclusion in a public sculpture park in Oakland, California. (We will have more to say about the park later this year.) We weighed in and uncovered something timely in sync with the Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Day of Remembrance. The quote comes from Edgar F. Kaiser (1908-1981), Henry Kaiser’s eldest son, who served on President’s John F. Kennedy’s Committee on Equal Employment Opportunity.

“The only kind of intolerance we can afford is intolerance of ourselves if we fail to bring forth from our own hearts and minds every last ounce of ingenuity and imagination and hard work needed to make equal employment opportunity not just the law of the land, but to make it the spirit, the intent and the actuality of our actions.”
— Edgar F. Kaiser

Edgar is largely obscured in the shadow of his illustrious father, but he was a man of civic mind and of no small accomplishment in his own right. Back in 2008, Tom Debley, formerly Director of KP Heritage Resources, called out Edgar’s induction in the organization’s Diversity Hall of Fame in the internal newsletter, KP Chronicles.

“Edgar F. Kaiser was inducted into the Kaiser Permanente Diversity Hall of Fame at the 30th annual National Diversity Conference in December 2007. Edgar Kaiser was co-founder Henry J. Kaiser’s eldest son who, among other things, brought his father together with founding physician Sidney R. Garfield.

His role in early diversity efforts included hiring the first woman shipyard worker in U.S. history as well as workers with physical disabilities during World War II. He succeeded his father as chairman of the KP Health Plan and Hospitals Boards of Directors.”

In addition to the KP diversity award, in 1969 Edgar was awarded the national Presidential Medal of Freedom for his contribution to low-income housing. He served four U.S. Presidents. John Kennedy named him to the President’s Committee on Equal Employment Opportunity. Lyndon Johnson chose him to head the President’s Committee on Urban Housing and to serve on his Advisory Committee on Labor-Management Policy. Gerald Ford appointed him to the President’s Advisory Committee on Refugees, and Jimmy Carter selected him for the Advisory Committee on National Health Insurance Issues. We look forward to bringing his many accomplishments to light this year in these pages.

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Henry Kaiser’s Respect for People of All Races Dates from African-American Worker Who Was One of First Employees Ever Hired

posted on June 15, 2010

By Tom Debley
Director of Heritage Resources

“Tote! Tote!”

Little Edgar Kaiser, 5, would call out to a gregarious black laborer named James A. Shaw with those words.

Jimmy Shaw would hoist the lad up onto his shoulders and carry the boy, all the while raking asphalt on a road-building project for Edgar’s father, Henry J. Kaiser.

The year was 1913. The site was a work camp where the toddler would often live, sleeping in a car or a tent, with his parents, Henry and Bess Kaiser. Little Edgar’s affection for riding on Shaw’s shoulders, calling out “Tote, Tote!” when he’d see Shaw, earned Jimmy the nickname “Tote,” or sometimes “Totem,” for the rest of his life.

"Totem" Shaw is seen in an undated photograph after his retirement in Fontana, Calif. (Photo courtesy of John Charles Anicic Jr., author of "Images of America: Kaiser Steel Fontana," Acadia Publishing, 2006.)

This was in the early years of Henry Kaiser’s fledgling road-building business—long before he became the great 20th century industrialist who gained fame building highways, dams, and World War II ships.

And Totem Shaw’s story, as recorded in historic archives, helps shed light on both Henry and Edgar Kaiser’s later reputations as businessmen who understood the value of workforce diversity and, in their personal lives, moved beyond racial divides decades before the rest of the country.

Born in 1879, Shaw was not quite two years older than Henry J. and represents the earliest documented friendship between the Kaisers and a person of African heritage. Shaw’s is a powerful story that helps explain why Henry Kaiser was open to hiring minority workers.

Shaw was Kaiser’s first black employee, hired several years before Kaiser even formed his own company. He actually was hired by A. B. Ordway, Kaiser’s very first employee, when they were working for another company paving part of Post Street in Spokane, Wash., about 1909. Kaiser was general superintendent and Ordway was foreman.

One day Shaw walked up to the Post Street paving gang and asked Ordway for a job. According to Gordon Barteau, a Portland Oregonian newspaper reporter who wrote a profile of Shaw in 1943, “Ordway sized Tote up and said he thought Tote looked kind of runty for a job like that.”

In a style reminiscent of Kaiser himself, Shaw offered to work for free for a week on trial.

“Well … the first day he wore out two men and the next day Ordway told him he was on the payroll,” the Oregonian reported.

“Tote” worked in a variety of jobs on just about every big Kaiser project – from road building in Cuba to the Grand Coulee Dam, the Vancouver Shipyards in World War II, and the Kaiser steel mill in Fontana, Calif., before he retired. It was during the war years in Vancouver, according to Barteau’s article, that whenever Henry Kaiser “comes to town he always looks up Tote and they hash over the old days.”

Clearly, it was Shaw’s relationship with Edgar and his ability as a skilled laborer with problem-solving skills that made him a lifelong, unforgettable friend of Henry Kaiser.

During construction of the original Highway 99 between Redding and Red Bluff in Northern California, in 1921, Kaiser was having trouble keeping a muddy detour open. He’d sent in a work crew of six men, and they had failed.

Kaiser summoned Shaw. “Tote,” he said, “every truck on the job is stuck in the mud. …You go down there and see what you can do.”

Shaw grabbed an axe, a pick, and a shovel. In short order, he had all of the trucks out of the mud and running.

“How did you do it?” Kaiser asked him.

“Mr. Kaiser,” he replied, “when you do things, you mixes brains and money. Well, sir, I mixes mud and brains.”

“Kaiser loved the phrase,” wrote one of his biographers, Mark Foster. “It became a company slogan.”

Shaw lived his final years in Fontana. They had a big party for him when turned 85 in 1964. In addition to cards, gifts, and a huge birthday cake, a teletype arrived from the giant Kaiser Industries headquarters in Oakland—birthday greetings from A. B. Ordway, who had known “Tote” since the day he had walked up to Ordway on Post Street in Spokane and asked for a job.

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