SF Nurses rally for alleged discrimination on fired comrade

By Rommel Conclara, ABS-CBN North America Bureau

Sept. 17, 2014

SAN FRANCISCO – About 50 nurses and community members rallied at Sutter-CPMC in San Francisco to demand the reinstatement of fired union leader and Filipina nurse Rowena San Agustin.

San Agustin was a 12 year veteran ER nurse who reportedly did not have a previous disciplinary issue.

They say she was instrumental in fighting for changes in the hospital like safe staffing and proper medical supplies.

“She’s actually a strong labor leader, union organizer, and her union here at CPMC and the California Nurses Association is fighting for a fair contract,” said Terrence Valen of the Filipino Community Center. “She was one of the leaders and in this incident where there was several people, she was targeted and singled out and fired in a discriminatory way.”

San Agustin was also the only Filipina nurse involved in the issue.

Sutter-CPMC has been accused of discrimination against Filipinos in the past.

“In 2010 it was brought to the attention to some inappropriate racial slurs were brought about Filipino nurses saying not to hire them, they’re all related, you can’t understand them, backed up by the fact the CEO made comments saying, ‘I love Filipinos, I eat lumpia with them’. What is that,” said RN Jane Sandoval. “So bringing attention once again, this behavior is not acceptable.”

Following these alleged statements, these protesters say the hiring of Filipino nurses stopped for 20 straight months from February 2008 until November 2009. These protesters say the hospital also discriminated and harassed a Filipina chaplain in 2012.

“We stand in solidarity with this nurse and to let the medical center know this is not appropriate, this is not acceptable and we will not stand for this,” said Sandoval.

Following the rally, organizers made their way into the building where they demanded to speak with Vice President of Nursing Diana Karner.

In a statement from CPMC, they said the firing of San Agustin was made after a thorough investigation and based upon policies designed to keep patients safe and to uphold their organization’s values.

They also said that the California Nurses Association is grossly misrepresenting the facts and they are on the wrong side of patient safety.

Meanwhile, nurses and community members say they will continue to rally for San Agustin’s reinstatement and fight against discrimination.

“We’re watching CPMC and this is not the first time we’re here,” said Tina Shauf of Gabriela-USA. “We’ll be back again if discrimination happens again and that’s the real concern. CPMC has not stopped discriminatory practices.”

“We know that nurses, Filipinos especially, are the backbone of the healthcare industry here in the United States,” said Valen. “We’re going to stand with them to make sure they have justice, Rowena gets her job back, and all the nurses here at CPMC get justice.”

You can contact Rommel Conclara at rommel_conclara@abs-cbn.com and follow him at Twitter @rommelconclara for more information.

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