, Heritage writer
During World War II, Henry J. Kaiser’s job wasn’t just getting ships built. It also included providing the services all those workers needed — such as child care, housing, health care, and transportation. Fast forward through history, and a $20 million commuter ferry terminal is opening right next to the Rosie the Riveter World War II Home Front National Historical Park in Richmond, California, where thousands of Kaiser shipyard workers on the home front produced cargo vessels.
Those workers had ferry service, too — a few hundred yards from the new terminal, across the Richmond Inner Harbor Channel.
A news item in the shipyard newspaper Fore ‘n’ Aft on September 17, 1942, noted, “After untiring efforts by Labor-Management committees in all three yards, the trial run of the San Francisco ferries to the shipyards took place Wednesday of last week.”
The hour-long trips went from the Ferry Building in San Francisco to the slip at the parking lot along the estuary at Yard Three. Ferries arrived 15 minutes before shifts started and left 30 minutes after shifts ended. The fare was 10 cents each way, and passengers could buy food onboard.
The service was sponsored by the U.S. Maritime Commission and run by the Wilmington Transportation Company, which operated the Los Angeles-Catalina Island ships. Pressed into duty were craft from the Key System, the enormous public transportation service of San Francisco’s East Bay, and included relics such as the side wheeler Yerba Buena. Some of the ferries carried automobiles.
The Commission proposed four ferries run between Richmond, San Francisco, and Sausalito, with almost continuous service to accommodate the staggered shifts at the Kaiser Richmond and Bechtel’s Marinship (Sausalito) yards.
The wartime ferries weren’t the first to come to Richmond; regular service between Richmond and San Rafael had operated since 1915.
By 1943, the ferry service was overwhelmed, and thousands of workers threatened to quit because it wasn’t running on time and was making them late to work. Under Maritime Commission rules, worker pay was docked if they were 15 minutes late. Faster ferries were put in service.
Some of the transits were quite eventful. The Klamath rammed a surfaced submarine in the middle of San Francisco Bay on July 1, 1944, (minor damage, no injuries) and almost collided with an anchored — but loaded — ammunition ship in the foggy morning of September 5, 1945.
A new auto ferry pier was one of the first infrastructure projects authorized after the war ended. Construction at Castro Point, at the terminal of Standard Oil (now Chevron), commenced in early 1946, and service began March 1947. By 1951, plans were being drawn up for a Richmond-San Rafael toll bridge. When it opened in 1956, the bridge was the last across San Francisco Bay to replace a ferry service.
It’s unlikely the new generation of Richmond ferry passengers will risk hitting a submarine or an ammunition ship, but they can travel with pride knowing that commuters to the Kaiser shipyards over 70 years ago were part of a bold social experiment in child care, housing — and health care.
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, Heritage writer
For many years, Kaiser Permanente members signed up through “groups” — organizations such as unions or employers who provide health plan benefits to their employees. However, when the Affordable Care Act became law in 2010 and the first open enrollment began 2014, Kaiser Permanente saw a large demand for “individual member plans” — plans families and individuals purchase themselves — and created options accordingly.
That wasn’t the first time. In 1995, an exciting new Kaiser Permanente individual plan was opened to the public.
When founding physician Sidney Garfield, MD, started his practice for the workers on the Colorado River Aqueduct project in 1933, they were covered under an industrial health plan. Non-work-related health care was paid as fee-for-service, but Garfield soon covered that under a low-cost prepaid plan. Dr. Garfield next cared for the workers at the Grand Coulee Dam project in Washington, where there was a community of wives and children. When the unions insisted, a prepaid health plan was extended to families. During World War II, Dr. Garfield’s medical coverage of the workers in the West Coast shipyards added families, first in the Northwest in September of 1943 and then in California in April 1945.
After the war ended, the Permanente health plans faced a serious challenge with the loss of almost 200,000 Kaiser workers. But because of Henry J. Kaiser’s positive relations with organized labor, unions became the first group members of the public plan. Soon, corporations, government agencies and nonprofit organizations were signing up their employees, and for many years, group membership was the primary point of entry for health plan members. Group membership in 1959 was 80 percent; within 20 years that would grow to approximately 90 percent. The few individuals were “conversion members” who were no longer covered under a group.
In late 1995, Kaiser Permanente in Northern California sought to increase membership by launching its first non-group health plan for individuals and families who weren’t covered by their employers or a family member. It was called Personal Advantage. In 1996, the employee magazine Contact described the development:
Rates for this plan are based on age and are highly competitive, with special rates available for people living in certain geographic areas. … Personal Advantage members have access to the same comprehensive quality care provided by Kaiser Permanente’s [“conversion member”] individual plan, including a prescription plan and optional dental coverage.
Personal Advantage was marketed through television and newspaper advertising, and was promoted at events that attracted young adults, such as sports events and concerts.
“Growth has been nearly 100 percent higher than expected,” said Jill Feldon, advertising manager. “Consumers like the low price, and they appreciate the value of receiving comprehensive health care coverage, access to specialists, and the high-quality care that Kaiser Permanente provides.”
In 2002, Personal Advantage Plan members were able to take advantage of the then-new phenomenon of online enrollment. The initiative marked one of the first examples of an insurer offering online enrollment through its own website, and it reduced processing time by eliminating paperwork. By 2005, the Kaiser Permanente Personal Advantage Plan was joined with a similar effort called the Kaiser Permanente Individual Plan and became Kaiser Permanente for Individuals and Families.
Group or individual, Kaiser Permanente strives to accommodate the health care needs of all.
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, Heritage writer
The space was christened “Garfield’s Café” to honor our founding physician and Kaiser Permanente’s long-standing commitment to nutrition as a component of good health. The menu features a wide variety of healthy options, ranging from oatmeal to daily paninis, veggie bowls and salads. The architects of this new café hope patrons will also sink their teeth in history of Kaiser Permanente and the Northwest region.
The space is near a display mounted in 2015 that includes key moments in Kaiser Permanente history in the Northwest. Oversize panels on the café wall highlight Dr. Garfield and the programs in the Portland area during World War II to feed the home-front workforce. These include photos of “Victory Gardens” in the worker-housing projects and employees dining at the huge Kaiser Oregonship cafeteria at St. Johns in 1942.
A large photograph of Dr. Garfield at Contractors General Hospital in the remote Mojave Desert is captioned with a quote from a 1980 letter to the 12,000 members who were part of his Total Health Care Program:
“Remember, good health is a way to get more out of your life — more energy, more enjoyment, more potential, more purpose, more life.”
Also, perhaps another cup of coffee and tasty bowl of oatmeal!
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