06/10/2010 02:22 pm ET Updated May 25, 2011

The SEIU-UHW Labor Agreement - Laying the Groundwork for Healthcare Reform NOW!

Something huge happened last week that I want to bring everyone in on. On Friday, May 28, 2010, at 6:30 a.m., a historic moment took place for health care.

My union, Service Employees International Union-United Healthcare Workers West (SEIU-UHW), negotiated a new labor agreement with the health care giant Kaiser Permanente. When our union members and Kaiser negotiators left the bargaining room for the final time after months of talks, we had agreed to a tentative agreement that does amazing things for patient care.

The way I see it, this new agreement lays the groundwork for health care reform RIGHT NOW by allowing millions of Californians to receive first-rate care for a long time to come.

What I love about this new agreement is the huge emphasis it puts on bringing excellent service to Kaiser patients. By putting together teams of medical workers who will all work together to constantly improve the quality of care we provide and by offering competitive wages and benefits so that Kaiser attracts and keeps the best workers, this new agreement is dedicated and determined to make Kaiser the best place to receive health care.

I'm also amazed by this agreement because it comes at a time of economic crisis and a lot of uncertainty about the impact of health care reform on the state. I think of this agreement as laying the groundwork for reform. It includes a strategy team made up of both management and labor that will meet regularly in order to make sure that health care reform is adopted in a way that keeps Kaiser number one in serving their patients, employees and communities. This approach will put Kaiser in a better position to do many great things: increase services to diverse populations in need of health care, offer affordable rates, increase the use of new technology, build new state-of-the-art facilities and, most of all, hire a staff with great morale who will deliver high quality care!

So that's why I'm so excited about this historic moment. The agreement shows how focusing on patients and treating employees fairly translates into the best care for the general public and our communities.

So KUDOS to SEIU-UHW and Kaiser Permanente for stepping up to the plate during these tough times. The newly bargained labor agreement will result in excellent care for so many people!