Posts Tagged ‘United Mine Workers of America’

Mending Bodies and Minds – Kabat-Kaiser Vallejo

posted on July 7, 2017

Lincoln Cushing
Heritage writer

 

Physical therapy at Kabat-Kaiser Vallejo

Mark Wellman fell from a cliff and broke his spine in 1982 at the age of 22. A well-known mountain climber, Wellman went on to scale Yosemite’s El Capitan seven years later despite his injuries, and was the first person to climb the 3,000-foot cliff using only his arms. Two years later, he summited Half Dome, and later became the first person with paraplegia to sit-ski across the Sierra Nevada.

Wellman received physical therapy and rehabilitation treatment at the Kaiser-Kabat Institute in Vallejo, Calif. (also called the Kabat-Kaiser Institute of Neuromuscular Rehabilitation), now the Kaiser Foundation Rehabilitation Center and Hospital which is still in operation. The work in Vallejo built upon the distinctive and important physical rehabilitation work done under the direction of Herman Kabat, MD, at the Kabat-Kaiser Institute in Santa Monica, which operated from 1947 to 1962.

Henry J. Kaiser had purchased the Vallejo Community Hospital in March 1947 from the

Permanente Hospital, Vallejo, circa 1948

Federal Works Agency to serve the growing Permanente health plan membership in that corner of the San Francisco Bay Area. The innovative facility had been designed by noted architect Douglas Dacre Stone (1897-1969), who’d also designed Children’s Hospital Oakland and Peralta Hospital. The facility was larger than needed, and in June part of the campus was allocated to the new Kabat-Kaiser rehabilitation program. There was also a Kabat-Kaiser clinic at the Permanente Foundation Hospital in Oakland, but after living quarters were built in Vallejo in late 1947 the Oakland clinic only served outpatients.

Kabat-Kaiser Vallejo, from Collier’s article, 1950

A key impetus behind Kaiser’s involvement in physical rehabilitation was in response to his youngest son Henry Junior (1917-1961) contracting multiple sclerosis in 1944 and being successfully cared for by program director Dr. Kabat. The first Kabat-Kaiser Vallejo administrator was Felix Day, and the medical director of the physical therapy school was physiatrist Ora Leonard Huddleston, MD.

The center in Santa Monica primarily treated patients with polio and multiple sclerosis, but Vallejo handled a much wider population of patients with disabling conditions including stroke and spinal cord injury. A 1954 brochure for the Kaiser Foundation Health Plan specifically noted “Members are entitled to rehabilitation and treatment for polio after the acute and contagious state, provided they have had continuous membership since the condition arose, and it originated after April 1, 1954.”

UMWA patients arriving by Pullman train for Kaiser physical therapy, 1948

Interestingly, this last group included coal miners from rural mining communities in the Midwest and East. In 1947 legendary United Mine Workers of America leader John L. Lewis and the UMWA Welfare and Retirement Fund partnered with Henry J. Kaiser and the Kabat-Kaiser Institute to provide top-quality medical care and rehabilitation for injured miners. They came across the country on the Southern Pacific’s elegant “Gold Coast Limited,” and when they arrived some had to be handed out through windows because they could not be lifted from their berths onto gurneys.

One of the mine workers to benefit from rehabilitation at Vallejo was Harold Willson, who arrived in 1948 with a crushed spine. There he met his nurse and future wife, regained mobility, and went on to work for the Kaiser Foundation Health Plan. Willson became a staunch advocate for making the then-new Bay Area Rapid Transit more accessible with elevators, ramps, chair-high water fountains, accessible bathrooms, lowered hand railings, and “kneeling” buses.

Maggie Knott and Dr. Kabat, Kabat-Kaiser Vallejo, from Collier’s article

It was in these early years that great strides were being made in the use of physical therapies to treat neuromuscular disabilities. Dr. Kabat received national publicity in the early 1950s for his work at the Vallejo facility, including a major spread in the popular magazine Collier’s Weekly. The institutes, under the direction of Dr. Kabat and physical therapist Margaret “Maggie” Knott, pioneered the therapy called “proprioceptive neuromuscular facilitation.” Maggie Knott and another physical therapist, Dorothy Voss, published the first textbook on PNF in 1956. PNF has become internationally recognized as one of the most widely used and effective treatments for certain injuries and illnesses.

Wheelchair square dance, from Kabat-Kaiser article in Collier’s

It was also during these years that some in the medical establishment attacked the Permanente Health Plan as “socialized medicine.” Left-sympathetic Dr. Kabat became a casualty, and he resigned from KKI in 1954 to pursue private practice and engage in research. (Also targeted but never harmed was Rene Cailliet, MD, certified in physical medicine and rehabilitation and chief of Kabat-Kaiser Santa Monica). Sedgwick Mead, MD, from Harvard University, was appointed medical director of the Vallejo KKI facility and it was renamed the California Rehabilitation Center.

KKI programs included a range of occupational training such as shoe and watch repair. One of their more popular recreational programs was wheelchair square dancing. And a local sports page on March 16, 1950, noted that the Fifth Annual Hayward Area Open Basketball Tournament would host the “First civilian wheelchair basketball team in the world” the “Wheeling Warriors” from KKI, where they would tangle with the National Guard 49ers.

Outdoor physical therapy at Kabat-Kaiser, Vallejo, circa 1960

Because the PNF method works so well, the program at the Kaiser Foundation Rehabilitation Center in Vallejo continues to draw graduate students from all over Europe, South America, and Asia. Just as in the early years, all productive approaches are welcome in physical and emotional therapy. A recent article highlighted several patients whose recovery was greatly enhanced by the healing power of visual art.

Kabat-Kaiser Vallejo – mending bodies and minds since 1947.

 

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World War II Kaiser ships named for labor leaders

posted on August 24, 2016

Lincoln Cushing
Heritage writer

 

Fore 'n' Aft, 1942-09-10, RMH

Labor day launchings in Richmond, Calif., Fore ‘n’ Aft, 9/10/1942.

Naming a ship after someone is a high honor. The United States Navy recently announced plans to name the fleet oiler T-AO-206 after the gay rights activist, San Francisco politician, and Navy veteran Harvey Milk. Several ships in this class commemorate social justice heroes and heroines, including the T-AO 187 USNS Henry J. Kaiser.

During World War II, when production was maximized and the workforce was essential to victory, labor and management made great efforts to be as cooperative as possible. On January 12, 1942, President Franklin Delano Roosevelt reinstated former President Woodrow Wilson’s National War Labor Board to anticipate and resolve labor-management conflict.

Labor Day ship launchings often feted the local labor community, but trade unionism was further elevated during the war by naming Liberty ships after labor leaders.

Announcement of launching of the SS Furuseth, Fore 'n' Aft, 1942-09-17, RMH

Launching of the SS Andrew Furuseth, Fore ‘n’ Aft, 9/17/1942.

Five Liberty ships named after labor leaders were launched on Labor Day – September 7 – 1942, and three of them were built in Kaiser shipyards. A sixth ship (the SS Samuel Gompers) was launched on June 28, 1944. Seven additional ships named for Jewish American labor leaders were launched between January 21, 1944, and October 13, 1944.

Labor took the lead in this campaign. In July, 1942, the Sailors’ Union of the Pacific petitioned the United States Maritime Commission and the War Shipping Administration for a Liberty ship to be named in honor of Andrew Furuseth, the longtime president of their union.

The plea was reported in the Oakland Tribune, July 14, 1942, in an article titled “Mariners ask ship to be named for union leader”:

Members of the West Coast Local No. 90 of the National Organization of Masters, Mates, and Pilots of America today petitioned the United States Maritime Commission to name one of the new Liberty ships after Andrew Furuseth, one of the founders of the Sailors Union of the Pacific.

In a resolution forwarded by Captain C.F. May, president, the Commission was asked to select one of the ships to be launched on Labor Day, September 7. Captain May told the commission that, if the committee selects a vessel to be named Furuseth, it “will not only be honoring an outstanding labor leader and citizen, but also recognizing the American marine seaman of today for his bravery and sacrifices which he is making to win the war.”

Logo (scan from production idea award certificate), Labor-Management Committee, War Production Drive, 1944

Logo, Labor-Management Committee, War Production Drive, 1944

On September 7, 1942, the United States Maritime Commission arranged to have five ships launched that were named for labor leaders. The launch ceremonies, held at four different shipyards around the country, were to be linked by a coast-to-coast broadcast and feature speeches by John P. Frey, an executive of the American Federation of Labor, and John W. Green, president of the Congress of Industrial Organizations. The two organizations would merge in 1955, and the AFL-CIO remains the largest federation of unions in the United States.

An Associated Press account described the Labor Day launching event in Baltimore:

With thousands of workers looking on, three Liberty ships slid down the ways at the Bethlehem-Fairfield shipyards Monday as the climax to a Labor Day celebration attended by political notables and ranking labor leaders. For the rest, it was just another working day for Bethlehem-Fairfield workers as they followed the lead of other defense industries and stayed at their jobs. Two of the new vessels were christened in honor of outstanding labor leaders and one of them was constructed in the record-breaking time of 39 days.

Yard General Manager J. M. Willis keynoted the ceremonies when he said “In all the history of America never has there been a Labor Day as significant as this one.”

Labor men everywhere, Willis continued, “have turned their parades into the shipyards and other defense industries in order, that not one hour of their productive effort be lost.” John Green, national president of the Industrial Union of Marine and Shipbuilding Workers of America, spoke of the steady growth of unionism. “By persistent work and unrelenting efforts the workers have achieved recognition. Our organizations are accepted as a necessary part of free American society. Our job now is to demonstrate that we are worthy to inherit the Promised Land made possible by the struggles of our pioneers,” Green said.

 

BW 1945-11-09

“Labor to be honored at Friday’s Launching,” The Bos’n’s Whistle, Oregon, 9/9/1945.

Even as the war wound down, labor was honored. A November 9, 1945 article titled “Labor to be Honored at Friday’s Launchings” informed readers that “Labor of the entire area will be feted for the part it has played in the Portland-Vancouver Kaiser company shipyards during the war in a huge ‘All Labor’ launching of the Mount Rogers at Vancouver … the entire program will be arranged by the Portland-Vancouver Metal Trades Council.”

Here are details of those five labor leader ships:

Essi-med

Norwegian-flagged Essi, formerly the SS Andrew Furuseth, circa 1960s.

SS Andrew Furuseth. Built at Kaiser Richmond shipyard #1; sold to Norwegian interests as Essi, 1947. Scrapped in Japan, 1967.
Norway-born Furuseth (1854-1938) was a merchant seaman and American labor leader. He helped build two influential maritime unions: the Sailors’ Union of the Pacific and the International Seamen’s Union. Furuseth served as the executive of both for decades.

SS Peter J. McGuire. Built at Kaiser Richmond shipyard #2; scrapped 1968.
McGuire (1852-1906) co-founded the United Brotherhood of Carpenters and Joiners of America in 1881 and was one of the early leading figures of the American Federation of Labor. He is credited with first proposing the idea of Labor Day as a national holiday in 1882.

SS James Duncan. Built at Kaiser Oregon Shipbuilding (St. Johns, Ore.); scrapped 1962.
Duncan was a Scottish-American union leader and president of the Granite Cutters’ International Association from 1885 until his death in 1928. He was an influential member of the American labor movement and helped found the American Federation of Labor.

SS John W. Brown. Built at Bethlehem-Fairfield Shipyard, Baltimore, Maryland.
John W. Brown (1867-1941) was a Canadian-born American labor union leader and executive of the Industrial Union of Marine and Shipbuilding Workers of America. This Liberty ship is one of two still operational (the other being the SS Jeremiah O’Brien, berthed in San Francisco) and one of three preserved as museum ships. The John W. Brown is berthed in Baltimore.

SS John Mitchell. Built at Bethlehem-Fairfield Shipyard; scrapped 1967.
Mitchell was a United States labor leader and president of the United Mine Workers of America from 1898 to 1908.

A sixth labor ship, launched June 28, 1944, was the SS Samuel Gompers, built at California Shipbuilding Corporation (Calship) in Sausalito. Gompers was the first and longest-serving president of the American Federation of Labor. She replaced a cargo steamship with the same name which had been torpedoed and sunk by a Japanese submarine in the South Pacific on January 30th, 1943.

Seven other Liberty ships launched in 1944 were named for Jewish American labor leaders.

January 21: The SS Benjamin Schlesinger was launched from the Bethlehem-Fairfield Shipyards. This was followed by the January 22 launching of the SS Morris Hilquit. Both were honored for their wartime contribution through the International Ladies Garment Workers Union.

The SS Morris Sigman, launched from Baltimore on February 4, honored the former president of the ILGWU, followed by the SS Meyer London, another ILGWU leader.

The SS B. Charney Vladek was launched from the New England Shipbuilding Company in South Portland, Maine, on July 7. She was named for Baruch Charney (1886-1938; he added “Vladek” as a nom de guerre surname in Tsarist Russia). Vladek emigrated to America in 1908, and was a Jewish labor leader and manager of the Jewish Daily Forward.

The SS Abraham Rosenberg was launched from the New England Shipbuilding Company in early October, named for the former ILGWU president. And on October 13 the SS Morris C. Feinstone, named for the the late general secretary of the United Hebrew Trades, was launched at the St. John’s shipyards in Florida. AFL President William Green paid tribute to Mr. Feinstone as “a devoted member of organized labor.”

Also see:Liberty and Victory Ships named for African Americans” and”Henry Kaiser and merchant sailors union: the curious case of the SS Pho Pho” about the SS Harry Lundeberg, 1958

 

Photograph of the Essi courtesy Den Norske Libertyflaten, (The American Liberty Fleet and other U.S.-Built Merchant Ships) Vormedal Forlag, Norway, 2015. Did you know that Norwegian for “scrapping” is “opphugging”?

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The genesis of Kaiser Permanente Colorado

posted on September 18, 2013

by Bryan Culp, Director

The seed planted in Dragerton, Utah, would eventually grow into a tree in Colorado.

1952 Utah Permanente Hospital, Dragerton, UtahIn 1942 a 35-bed hospital was built and operated under the auspices of the War Production Board in Dragerton, Utah, about 150 miles southeast of Salt Lake City. The small hospital in Carbon County provided care for miners who were extracting coal for wartime steel production.

At the end of the war, a local physician purchased the Dragerton hospital as war surplus and contracted with the United Mine Workers to provide medical services. Unfortunately, the care was not to the miners’ satisfaction. Complaints grew. The physician’s billing practices were suspect, and he refused to refer major surgeries to Salt Lake City though he himself had no training in surgery.

The situation became so bad that in the winter of 1952 the miners went on strike to force reforms at the hospital. William Dorsey, MD, the regional director for the United Mine Workers Welfare and Retirement Fund in Denver, represented the interests of the UMW.

To break the impasse, U.S. Steel, the major mining operator in the area, appealed to Henry J. Kaiser – Kaiser Steel operated mines in Carbon County – with the request for the Permanente Foundation to buy out the physician. Kaiser agreed and the articles of incorporation of the Utah Permanente Hospital were signed on February 26, 1952.

Dragerton, Utah Permanente hospital opening, 1954-06-24; news clippingsA refurbished hospital and a long-standing partnership with Kaiser Rehabilitation Hospital in Vallejo, Calif., to provide rehabilitation medicine to injured miners restored good relations with the UMW and in the greater mining community.

The health care program would exist in that Utah microcosm until 1966, when the Foundation sold the hospital.

Now the story comes back to Dr. Dorsey, who had made numerous overtures, to Kaiser Permanente’s leaders, starting in 1952, to establish the health care program in the Rocky Mountain region. He was convinced that after the success at Dragerton, Kaiser Permanente was the right health plan for UMW members in the Denver and Rocky Mountain areas.

 

In 1967 Dorsey presented to CEO Clifford Keene and the Kaiser Permanente Committee a University of Colorado study indicating that there was a strong market for a prepaid group practice in Denver.

1950 coal miner occupational therapy rehab KP Vallejo
Mine worker patient at KP Vallejo Rehabilitation hospital using laptop loom for occupational therapy.

After a year of study, a plan to expand to Colorado won the approval of the Kaiser Foundation Hospitals and Health Plan Board of Trustees. The Region began operations in Denver on July 1, 1969.

Today Kaiser Permanente Colorado serves 540,000 members in three large service areas – the Denver/Boulder area; in Southern Colorado stretching from Colorado Springs to Pueblo; and in Northern Colorado, the Fort Collins, Loveland and Greeley areas. The region boasts over a thousand Colorado Permanente Physicians and 6000 employees serving in 26 – soon to be 28 – medical offices.

So it was, in the words of Dr. John Smillie, a physician with The Permanente Medical Group in Northern California, “the seed planted in Dragerton, Utah, would eventually grow into a tree in Colorado.”

 

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Disabled KP financial analyst changed course of public transportation

posted on October 24, 2012

By Lincoln Cushing
Heritage writer

Harold Willson, KP employee from 1957 to 1977, getting off a wheelchair-accessible BART train. Willson convinced officials to alter the system design to accommodate disabled passengers. Photo from Accent on Living magazine.

Next month, Kaiser Permanente leaders and staff will gather for the 35th year to celebrate the diversity of its work force, its selected vendors and its membership. “Diversity Excellence: A 21st Century Game Changer” will be in Long Beach on November 1 and 2.

KP’s embracing of diversity goes back to its beginnings in the World War II shipyards, and its ranks have included many disabled individuals who made significant contributions despite their handicaps. Harold T. Willson, a wheelchair-bound KP financial analyst, was one such person.

Willson, disabled in a 1948 mining accident, successfully lobbied leaders of the San Francisco Bay Area Rapid Transit District (BART) to make the high-speed train system accessible to the disabled.

BART, celebrating its 40th anniversary this year, was under construction in the early 1960s when Willson learned that the plans did not call for disabled access. He raised his objections and insisted on alterations.

Willson’s quiet persistence made BART leaders stop and listen. This relentlessness was characteristic of Willson’s approach to life. His story is one of triumph over tragedy.

Slate slide crushed young miner

Willson was 21 years old when his entire life changed. The son of a mining engineer, he turned to mine work for income, as many young men do in West Virginia. His father had died two years earlier, and he was supporting the family and saving for college.

BART public phones were mounted lower to be convenient for passengers in wheelchairs. Photo from Accent on Living magazine.

He describes his last day of going down 500 feet to work at the mine owned by the New River Coal Company in Summerlee:

“On Friday, the 13th day of February, 1948, I went to work the ‘hoot owl’ shift, and early the next morning just after my lunchtime, at 3:30 a.m., I was caught in a slate fall. I was badly crushed, ribs and back were broken with severe spinal damage.”

Willson was fortunate to be a member of Local 6048 of the United Mine Workers of America (UMWA). Soon after his accident he was sent to the Kabat-Kaiser Institute in Oakland, California, for rehabilitation (the facility was later located in Vallejo).

Kaiser rehabilitation center opened to miners

Just a few months earlier, legendary UMWA leader John L. Lewis and the UMWA Welfare and Retirement Fund had partnered with Henry J. Kaiser and the Kabat-Kaiser Institute to provide top-quality medical care and rehabilitation for injured miners.

United Mine Workers of America patients arriving by Pullman train for Kaiser physical therapy, 1948. Kaiser Permanente Heritage Archives photo

Vocational institutions in the rural mining communities in the East were badly underfunded, and the California facilities offered a perfect venue for the union’s commitment to social welfare.

Willson was among the first group of miners to take the long trip west in three railroad cars, eventually followed by hundreds more. In an early instance of KP’s community benefit practices, the Permanente Health Plan continued to provide care even when the miners’ fund ran out of money.i

At Kabat-Kaiser Willson participated in physical therapy, played wheelchair basketball, and fell in love with his nurse and future wife. He got a job at the Bank of America, earned a bachelor of science in business administration, and then took a position as a senior financial analyst with the Kaiser Foundation Health Plan, retiring in 1977.

Willson put his persuasive powers to work

While employed by KP, Willson was a powerful advocate for urban design and construction that would accommodate disabled people. As volunteer consultant to BART, he put in long hours over a 10-year period to ensure its accessibility for the disabled and elderly. He insisted that adequate transportation was often the deciding factor for disabled independence.

Special ticket gates were designed to allow wheelchairs to pass through. Photo from Accent on Living magazine.

A feature article on his work in the 1973 issue of Accent on Living described it this way: “The original concept [of BART] in 1962 did not include the provisions for people with severely restricted mobility.

“At that time, Willson initiated a campaign to secure the present facilities, starting with endorsements from the elderly, the handicapped and the general public. The project was not “sold” with fanfare and publicity but by person- to-person contact.”

A.E. Wolf, General Superintendent of Transportation for BART, was won over by Willson’s approach. He noted: “His suggestion was novel for rapid transit, no one had tried it; it posed all kinds of problems; cost was significant. Our staff, including myself, was hardly enthusiastic.

“But, he did not threaten, nor picket, nor sulk, nor lose patience. Instead he was professional, pleasant, firm and persistent. As a result, he won support of each of our board members while maintaining a friendly relationship with our staff. This helped his cause immensely.”

KP backed Willson’s advocacy

In keeping with its policy to support efforts to improve opportunities for the disabled, as well as other minority groups, Kaiser Permanente gave Willson the freedom to pursue his accessibility campaign.

“It is appropriate here to commend Kaiser [Permanente leaders] . . . because of their interest, encouragement and public service philosophy,” Wolf also noted. “The willingness to arrange time for an employee to participate in this community project was necessary for its success.” ii

Willson agreed: “. . . Since our Medical Care Program is one of the largest providers of health services . . . we should assume the leadership role in promoting and participating in activities and programs that will create a barrier-free environment for the handicapped and elderly.”

Willson’s specific recommendations included large elevators at every stop, accessible restrooms, wide parking spaces, narrow gaps between trains and platforms, and loudspeaker announcements.

His broader vision was perhaps best articulated in a statement he made before the American Public Transportation Association in 1976: “We must exert every effort to . . . create a barrier-free transportation environment for those that are handicapped and for the non-handicapped destined to become disabled such as yourselves.”

 

i The charitable nature of this relationship is described in A Model for National Health Care by Rickey Hendricks: “When the union fund suffered a financial setback in late 1949, the Permanente Hospital Foundation continued to transport and care for miners at Permanente expense. Kabat-Kaiser continued through 1952 to run on a deficit of almost $100,000.”

ii Comments by A.E.Wolf, General Superintendent of Transportation, Bay Area Rapid Transit District, to Workshop number 3, Transportation Environment, 1972 National Easter Seal Convention, Chicago, Illinois, November 9, 1972.

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