Healthcare Labor-Management Partnership Work at Penn State

The Healthcare Labor-Management Partnership Initiative (HPI) at Penn State is committed to encouraging the implementation of new labor-management partnerships in healthcare organizations and to working with existing partnerships to help them reach their full potential. Our mission is to provide educational programs, research, and direct consultation to healthcare systems and to healthcare unions interested in pursuing labor-management partnerships to improve patient care, create meaningful jobs, and control healthcare costs.

What is a Labor-Management Partnership?

A labor-management partnership is a relationship between a union or unions and an employer that includes formal opportunities for front-line staff to contribute to improving the organization for which they work, the services the organization provides, and their own experiences at work.  

A labor-management partnership is a program in which employees and their union representatives work together with management and administrators as full and equal partners to identify and craft solutions to significant workplace problems.  In healthcare organizations, the ultimate goal of such partnerships is to improve patient care, improve working conditions for frontline staff, and control costs.  

Partnerships in a healthcare setting include mechanisms for frontline staff and administrators to jointly identify and solve patient care problems or other jointly-identified challenges such as workforce, labor relations, employee engagement issues, the use of new technologies, and community health issues.  Existing healthcare partnerships have improved the quality of patient care and the patient experience, established optimal staffing levels, reduced waste, and lower costs.

Partnerships can occur as a specific initiative to address a problem or as a comprehensive approach to solve departmental and system problems, as well as to transform a labor-management relationship. 

Recent HPI Activites

What does HPI Do? 

  • Healthcare Labor-Management Partnership Learning Collaborative 

The Healthcare Labor-Management Partnership Learning Collaborative (HPLC) will be a central focus of the HPI.  The Collaborative is designed to serve as an ongoing network to connect existing labor-management partnerships in healthcare organizations and to encourage and assist the development of new healthcare partnerships. The Collaborative will facilitate discussions between healthcare partnerships to promote the exchange of ideas and experiences, help inform healthcare unions and employers contemplating partnership about the benefits and challenges of instituting such arrangements and conduct research about partnership processes and outcomes in the healthcare industry.

  • The Learning Collaborative’s First Initiative

The Learning Collaborative’s first initiative took place from May to October 2021and involved five virtual learning sessions that brought together practitioners from five established healthcare partnerships around the country.  Each session focused on a different challenge facing healthcare partnerships and provided an opportunity for the participating partnerships to share experiences and learn from each other.  A team of academics and practitioners experienced in partnership planned and facilitated the sessions. The sessions were highly interactive and represented the first time the representatives of the five labor and management had an opportunity to exchange views and ideas. 

  • On-Going Networking Sessions for Collaborative Participants

The Collaborative will sponsor ongoing virtual networking sessions 3-4 times a year designed to bring together labor, management, neutral practitioners, and academics interested in healthcare partnerships.  The sessions will include short presentations on substantive issues related to healthcare partnerships, as well as opportunities for ongoing partnerships around the country to exchange information about their latest challenges and accomplishments. 

  • Monthly Updates on Partnership News and Research

Collaborative participants will receive a monthly e-mail update on developments at partnerships around the country, as well as information about current research and upcoming Collaborative activities.

If you wish to be added to the Learning Collaborative mailing list, please send a note to Paul Clark, Partnership Initiative Coordinator at

  • Spreading the Word About Healthcare Partnerships

The HPI will endeavor to raise the profile of Labor-Management Partnerships and encourage unions and employers in the healthcare industry to consider implementing partnerships in their workplaces. 

The Partnership Initiative will publish op-eds and other materials designed to spread the word about the benefits of partnership

  • Advising/Consulting Services

The faculty of the HPI have considerable experience in planning and implementing partnerships in the healthcare industry. They are available to advise unions and employers who are considering partnership on a consulting basis.  

  • News and Publications About Healthcare Labor-Management Partnership

Below are reports, books, academic articles, and useful websites for those interested in learning more about the partnership. 

For those who want a thorough introduction to labor-management partnerships in healthcare, the Partnership Initiative recommends the 2020 book below written by Peter Lazes and Marie Rudden.

Lazes, Peter and Marie Rudden.  2020.  From the Ground Up- How Frontline Staff Can Save America’s Healthcare.  Berrett-Koehler Publishers, Oakland, CA. (available at www. Berrett-Koehler)

Additional materials:

Avgar, Ariel C., Julie A. Sadler, Paul F Clark, and Wonjoon Chung.  2016. "Labor-Management Partnership and Employee Voice: Evidence from the Healthcare Setting."  Industrial Relations, Volume 55, Issue 4, October 2016, pp. 576-603.

Clark, Paul F. 2016.  “Nurses Union Strategies for Improving the Quality of Patient Care.”

Chapter in Ariel Avgar and Timothy Vogus, (eds.), The Evolving Healthcare Landscape: How Employees, Organizations, and Institutions Are Adapting and Innovating.  Ithaca, NY:  Cornell ILR Press, 2016.

Eaton, A., R. Givan, and P. Lazes, Labor-Management Partnerships in

Health Care: Responding to the Evolving Landscape, The Evolving Healthcare Landscape: How Employees, Organizations, and Institutions are Adapting and Innovating. 2016. LERA publication.

Kaiser-Permanente.  2021.  Kaiser-Permanente Labor-Management Partnership Website. (This is the main website for the nation’s largest healthcare labor-management partnership.  It includes a great deal of information about labor-management partnerships in general and the Kaiser-Permanente Partnership in particular.)

Kochan, Thomas, et al.  2009.  Healing Together:  The Labor-Management Partnership at Kaiser Permanente.  Cornell University Press, Ithaca, NY (available here).

Lazes, Peter, Maria Figueroa, and Liana Katz.  2012.  How Labor-Management Partnerships Improve Patient Care, Cost Control, and Labor Relations: Case Studies of Fletcher Allen Health Care, Kaiser Permanente, and Montefiore Medical Center’s Care Management Corporation.

Rodak, S.  2012.  “Why Lean Might Not Be the Best Solution.” Becker’s Hospital Review, November 18.

Spear, S. 2011.  “Why Best Practices Haven’t Fixed Health Care.” Harvard Business Review Blog, January 3.                                                                                                                                       

Healthcare Labor-Management Partnership Initiative Faculty 

paul clarkPaul F. Clark is a Professor and former Director in the School of Labor and Employment Relations at Penn State.  He is the Coordinator of the Healthcare Labor-Management Partnership Initiative (HPI). Clark is a long-time labor educator and researcher and has worked with numerous unions on education and research projects over a forty-year career.  He has conducted studies of the impact of healthcare partnerships on union commitment and participation in nurses’ unions in the U.S. and of the labor-management partnership of the National Health Service of Scotland, one of the largest and most successful partnerships in the world.  He is the author or editor of five books and has published more than sixty academic articles.  He also regularly writes op-eds and other articles for the popular press.  His book, Building More Effective Unions, published by Cornell ILR Press, has been widely used by unions in education and training programs.  He can be reached at .

Peter LazesPeter Lazes, HPI Co-Coordinator, is currently a Visiting Professor at Penn State’s School of Labor and Employment Relations.  He is the founder and former Director of Cornell’s School of Industrial and Labor Relations’ Healthcare Transformation Project and Program for Economic Transitions. These programs provided labor union and management leaders with customized consulting, research, and educational programs to implement strategic worker participation programs. His ongoing work involves assisting hospitals and healthcare organizations to develop methods to improve patient care and reduce costs with a focus on frontline staff engagement. He has served as a consultant for organizations in a variety of sectors of our economy and has written over 30 articles and produced several videos on topics such as organizational change, innovation, and new work systems, new roles for unions, and strategies for keeping American jobs. In addition to being on the faculty of Cornell University and Penn State, Peter has been on the faculty of  New Jersey Medical School, Tufts University and Medical School, and the City University of New York. Peter is the co-author (with Marie Rudden) of a recent book on healthcare partnerships, From the Ground Up- How Frontline Staff Can Save America’s Healthcare (available at https://www.penguinrandom house.com/books/653629/from-the-ground-up-by-peter-lazes-and-marie-rudden/). He can be reached at pml5@cornell.edu

Zach zobristZach Zobrist, HPI Co-Coordinator, is an Adjunct Faculty Member of Penn State’s School of Labor and Employment Relations. He is also the Director of Workforce Development for SEIU Healthcare Pennsylvania, a statewide healthcare workers union that represents over 40,000 healthcare workers.  Zach brings significant experience to the Initiative, having served in numerous appointed and elected roles with his union over nearly seventeen years.  During his time with SEIU Healthcare PA, he established several Labor-Management Partnerships to engage healthcare workers in their critical role as front-line staff in transforming and improving the healthcare delivery system and to engage union members. From 2019-2021, he was a faculty member at Penn State’s School of Labor Employment Relations. In his role as a labor educator for Penn State labor outreach programs, he worked to find ways to engage unions in thinking about partnership opportunities around workforce development and quality improvement. In August 2021, he was appointed to his current position with SEIU.  He can be reached at zach.zobrist@seiuhcpa.org