When George Washington University Hospital terminated Angelo Estrellas, Filipino students at the University of Maryland were met with a far too familiar feeling for the historically marginalized community in the healthcare industry.
Estrellas, a registered nurse at George Washington University Hospital, was fired on March 22 after supporting unionization efforts by nurses at the hospital.
Estrellas’ termination cut deep for many members of this university’s Filipino community given its history in the nursing profession, according to Emmanuel Bautista, a sophomore computer science major.
During the first year of the pandemic, 26.4 percent of registered nurses who died of COVID-19 were Filipino, despite Filipinos only making up four percent of registered nurses in the United States, according to a study from National Nurses United.
Bautista highlighted the challenges Filipino nurses have faced dating back to the pandemic.
“[Filipinos] are the ones, statistically … that put themselves on the line the most to take care of people and many of them have suffered and died because of the pandemic,” Bautista said.
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To address these concerns, Andrea Cagurangan, a junior management and marketing major, emphasized the importance of unionization efforts by Estrellas and other nurses at hospitals, especially for the Filipino population.
“[This issue is] part of our stories [and] a part of our history,” Cagurangan said. “I want to know that nurses are able to fully care for themselves first and also be able to care for their patients. They really can’t do that if they are overworked.”
The Filipino Cultural Association at this university also showed its support for Estrellas during its Philippine Culture Night in April.
During the event’s intermission, students handed out a solidarity statement with information about Estrellas’ termination, Cagurangan said.
The organization also reposted a petition on Instagram by Anakbayan College Park, a Filipino advocacy organization, to educate others about the importance of nurses’ right to organize.
In addition, Estrellas’ mission received overwhelming support outside of this university’s community.
Stefanie Alarie, a registered nurse at George Washington University Hospital since 2012, said she has experienced several unfair policies from the hospital’s administration without nurse input.
Alarie became involved in starting a union in summer 2022 after the hospital adopted a policy requiring a doctor’s note for a nurse to call out sick.
“The very first thing that popped into my mind was [the new policy] doesn’t feel legal,” Alarie said. “We have no say in being able to fight that.”
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The District of Columbia Nurses Association created an election petition on March 15 to support Estrellas’ actions.
An election petition is designed for workers to notify the National Labor Relations Board that they want to be an organized union. Once the petition is filed, the NLRB determines if it is appropriate to hold an election to allow workers to vote on forming a union.
The nurses association and nurses at the hospital attended a hearing with the NLRB to finalize the next steps before the election, said Edward Smith, the executive director for the District of Columbia Nurses Association.
The hearing’s decision is expected in May.
After Estrellas’ termination, the nurses association also filed charges against the hospital, alleging the hospital violated Estrellas’ right to join and form a union, according to Smith.
George Washington University Hospital did not respond to a request for comment from The Diamondback.
Estrellas has embraced the support and is continuing his fight for union rights moving forward.
“We will win this fight,” Estrellas said. “We are not backing down. We are not scared. We’re not intimidated. We will win.”