Roots Forged in Steel

Kaiser Permanente’s first facility in Southern California was built to care for Kaiser steelworkers — and some employees’ families have been working there just about ever since

family portrait

For Jeanine Chavis, Kaiser Permanente is a family affair.

She and her two daughters were born at Fontana Medical Center in Southern California, built to serve the workers at Kaiser Steel during the boom years of World War II.

Her grandmother, Ruth Covert, started working at Fontana as a hospital switchboard operator when President Eisenhower was in office. She stayed for the next 30 years, before retiring as supervisor of communications.

And her mother, Ruthetta Brandt, an EKG technician, found employment there and a chance to further her education, thanks to the company’s generous tuition reimbursement program.

Now Jeanine and her son-in-law, Luis Casillas, carry on the family tradition. Both work at Fontana, where she is the clerical services supervisor for Family Medicine and he’s a Call Center agent.

“We’re a Fontana family,” says Jeanine, who was hired in 1985 as a receptionist for the Radiology department.

Over the years, Jeanine has held a variety of positions. One of her most memorable experiences took place during the late 1990s, when she helped implement Kaiser Permanente’s automated payroll system, which is still in use today.

“It was a really big job. I touched every single person in this facility,” Jeanine says. “I trained all the managers how to do the payroll on the computer, and I showed the employees how to clock in on the phone.”

people working at hospital switchboard

Her ability to move up within the organization is a big reason why Jeanine continues to work at Kaiser Permanente.

“We have so many opportunities,” she says. “How many companies are there out there that allow so much movement within their organization?”

Her mom belonged to United Steelworkers Local 7600, and she did too for a time. Although she is now a manager, Jeanine hasn’t forgotten her union roots.

“Unions are good. They help people and they’re part of our team,” she says. “We want everyone to have a voice in the company.”

The culture of partnership has helped Jeanine — and her co-workers — navigate tough challenges, including the transition from paper charts to the electronic medical records system, Kaiser Permanente HealthConnect®.

As a chartroom manager at the time, Jeanine worked with key labor and management leaders to retrain and transition chartroom employees into other jobs within Kaiser Permanente.

“We did three different deployments,” Jeanine says. “Every single person who wanted to stay with Kaiser, stayed with Kaiser — and those who went back to school got jobs that earned more pay.”

“Kaiser Permanente has a lot of room for growth and they care about their employees,” Jeanine says. “I’m very proud and happy to be here.”