By Otesa Miles
More than 35 years ago, Lola King’s new job didn’t go so well. She started at the Georgetown University Community Health Plan in Washington, D.C., in May 1980. But the company was battling financial problems, and before her 90-day probation period ended, King lost her job.
“Then lo and behold,” she says, “Kaiser Permanente bought the company and they called me back.”
Lola had no idea at the time that this new employer would be her work home for most of her life—and she definitely didn’t expect three other family members to work for KP long term as well.
Soon after Lola regained her position, she urged her older sister, Audrey King, to apply.
‘A good company’
“I said you should try to get into this company. It’s a good company,” Lola recalls.
Audrey celebrated her 34th anniversary at KP this year. Lola and Audrey both urged their younger sister, Felecia Adams, to look for jobs at KP as well. Adams, now a receptionist in the Largo, Maryland, Ambulatory Surgery department and a member of OPEIU Local 2, first found on-call work with the company. In 1990, three years later, she landed a part-time position.
The most recent family member to join the company is Audrey’s daughter, Johnyia Turner, RN, who began working on call at KP on Christmas Eve 1998, while she was still in school.
In addition to amassing a century of KP work experience between them, the family members also have been active union members whenever they held union-eligible positions. Lola, who was an OPEIU Local 2 member for 15 years, is the only family member who isn’t currently a union member, because her position as underwriter II isn’t a represented job.
A family of shop stewards
Audrey joined OPEIU Local 2 on “day one.”
“I’ve been in OPEIU 34 years,” she says. “I never left it and I’m not going to.”
A strong supporter of the Labor Management Partnership, Audrey King is now a union partnership representative and UBT improvement advisor for the Mid-Atlantic States region.
“My father was an engineer for D.C. schools. He and all of my uncles and my aunt were shop stewards. They all stressed the importance of having a voice,” she says. “My father was one of those types who made sure his girls were strong enough to know, ‘I have a voice, I don’t have to settle for less.'”
The three sisters passed that wisdom to Audrey’s daughter Johnyia, who is a lead nurse in Adult Medicine at the Capitol Hill Medical Center and a member of UFCW Local 400.
“I’ve seen how people were treated in workplaces without unions,” Johnyia says. “Going various places with my mom, I saw how the Coalition of KP Unions joined together and how they work together in ratifying the contract. It’s amazing. I always wanted to be involved and be in the forefront. The union is labor’s voice.”