National Nurses United

National Nurse magazine January-February-March 2023

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many of the more than 50 union nurses who visited the museum together in February. "It is really emotional, really tearful," said Rida Villanueva, RN, and a CNA/NNOC board member, seeing her own history and her image reflected on the walls of the museum. Villanueva stood below a photograph of herself standing in 2010 with fellow board members Gina Macalino, RN and former board member Debbie Cuaresma, RN. While Villanueva joked that it was not the most flattering photo (she recalled she had slept very little before it was taken during a D.C. protest) but she said, she felt enormous pride to see the nurses history being told. "It's surreal," she said. Cuaresma's daughter, Denice, herself an RN at Good Samaritan in Los Angeles, echoed the sentiment, after she spotted the photo of her mother from across the room when she saw her familiar sunglasses. "It's kinda overwhelming," said Denice, who remembers making picket signs with her mother when she was a young girl. But she said it is remarkable to see her mother's union work being honored. "She was a nurse to everyone, it's really inspiring." "I feel seen," said Macalino, reflecting on the exhibit. "It's really important that the young people know what we have done. So the younger kids can see like, 'Oh wow, they've done it before, I can do it myself.'" The exhibit, which runs until the end of April, provides a brief history of the California Nurses Association from its beginnings in the early 1900s as the first union of nurses to address issues in the workplace to its current fierce advocacy for safe working conditions for nurses and care for patients. Other highlights include the CNA staff nurse revolution in 1992, which more clearly aligned CNA's mission with bedside and staff nurses and the long and bruising, but victorious, fight in 1999 for a safe staffing ratios law. "We have ambitious goals, many we have met, to unionize large numbers of hospitals," Castillo told the nurses. "There's no doubt in my mind that we could not have won those victories without Fili- pinx nurses and their passion, commitment, and talent for organ- izing—organizing coworkers in their units, their hospitals, and even their church and community networks." It's that kind of effective organ- izing and advocacy that nurses are so pleased to see celebrated in a museum setting and to share with new nurses. "It lends credibility and respect to our work," said Michelle Gutierrez-Vo, RN, and CNA/NNOC board member. "This is some- thing to be proud of, and to display and show the world." "Our stories matter," said Jane Sandoval, RN and CNA/NNOC board member. "Just when you think no one's paying attention, someone is paying attention." And that "paying attention" is how the new generation of nurses learn to carry on the fight for health care justice in California com- munities and in their facilities. "You get to tell other nurses, not just Filipina but young nurses all over the country, that your ideas, everything you bring to the table counts," said Gutierrez-Vo. "I have mentored others who have learned to stand for themselves and have a voice. The best thing you can do is to teach people to stand on their own two feet." "My heart is so full that my Filipinx sisters, brothers, and siblings are being recognized for all that we have contributed to the history of California," said Zenei Triunfo-Cortez, RN and the first Filipina president of a major national union, both NNU and CNA. Triunfo- Cortez is celebrated with her own display, an acknowledgement of her special place in history. "When my sisters saw that, they really began taking photos," said Triunfo-Cortez adding humbly she is not quite sure why she's the one who is singled out for the accomplishments of so many, and ending with a laugh, "But, hey, I will take it!" But on a more serious note, Triunfo-Cortez said, "I know I stand as an important symbol for all of us Filipinx nurses and the power all of us have when we stand together. My aim is that while I am the first Filipinx president of our organization, I should not be the only, but rather the first with many more to follow." Rachel Berger is a communications specialist for National Nurses United. J A N U A R Y | F E B R U A R Y | M A R C H 2 0 2 3 W W W . N A T I O N A L N U R S E S U N I T E D . O R G N A T I O N A L N U R S E 19 "My heart is so full that my Filipinx sisters, brothers, and siblings are being recognized for all that we have contributed to the history of California."

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