Thursday, March 19, 2009

THE STRUGGLE CONTINUES FOR THE SENTOSA 27++ NURSES

News Release
March 18, 2009

Reference: Atty. Felix Vinluan, Justice for the Sentosa 27++ Campaign,
email: nafconusa@yahoo.com

Community Forum Pledges to Struggle for Complete Justice for Wronged Healthcare Workers

"It's time to up the ante...."

This was the sentiment posed by community supporters of the Sentosa 27++ Nurses who will be holding an important forum on the ongoing Justice for the Sentosa 27++ Nurses Campaign this Sunday, March 22nd, 2pm at Jing Fong Restaurant in Chinatown . Entitled "Up the Ante Towards Full Justice for the Sentosa 27++ and All Victims of Illegal Recruitment" the dinner event will feature highlights from the community campaign for the trafficked healthcare workers from the Philippines who came to the United States in 2006 under direct hire nursing contracts with SentosaCare LLC. But after tenets of the Sentosa contracts were not honored, the 26 nurses and a physical therapist fought back with the help of their lawyer, Felix Vinluan.

Sentosa's CEO Bent Philipson retaliated against 10 of the nurses who resigned from his Avalon Gardens Nursing home in Suffolk County , Long Island and Vinluan by filing criminal charges of so-called patient endangerment. In a historic court decision earlier this year, the criminal charges against the 10 Avalon Nurses and Vinluan were formally prohibited. This was after supporters, such as the Legal Aid Society, the National Employment Lawyers Association of New York, New York State Nurses Association (NYSNA), the American Nurses Association (ANA), SEIU 1199, and the Suffolk County Defenders Association filed their respective amicus briefs to support the Article 78 prohibition petition filed by lawyers James Druker and Oscar Michelen for the nurses and Vinluan.

"Justice has not been fully served. We still need to fight for the shutting down of SentosaCare LLC. The former Sentosa nurses represent millions of Filipino migrant workers who fall victim to illegal contractualization and other forms of human trafficking because contractors like SentosaCare LLC prey on their desire to escape joblessness and poverty in the Philippines . Every year, tens of thousands of Filipinos enter the US as healthworkers or teachers duped by fraudulent contracts signed in the Philippines ," states Rico Foz of the National Alliance for Filipino Concerns or NAFCON.

NAFCON, along with supporters from the Philippine Nurses Association of America (PNAA), NYSNA, Movement for a Free Philippines (MFP), formed the Justice for the Sentosa 27++ Campaign (J4S27), a grassroots community campaign in support of the nurses as early as 2006, at a time when the nurses plea for justice was largely shunned by others in the Filipino community. "Unfortunately, there were those who refused to offer help to the nurses back then that are only speaking out now in support because of the Avalon 11's recent victory against criminalization," Foz added.

In 2007, the Justice for the Sentosa 27++ Campaign marched as one large contingent down Madison Avenue during the annual Philippine Independence Day Parade in New York City after holding several community forums at the NAFCON office in Queens . NAFCON, PNAA and NYSNA members also held outdoor demonstrations in the freezing cold winter of 2007 outside the Suffolk County Courthouse during the hearings on the Avalon 11's case. Congressional hearings were held in Manila through the J4S27's campaign's Philippine-based partners investigating the Sentosa Recruitment Agency, the agency who contracted the nurses from the Philippines to work at Sentosa-owned facilities in New York State . A campaign website was generated with a petition calling for six basic demands, which include the dropping of all civil and criminal charges against the nurses and shutting down of SentosaCare LLC. "For as long as all six demands have not been met, we will continue to up the ante on this important struggle for justice," Foz ended.

Jing Fong Restaurant is located at 18 Elizabeth Street , between Canal and Bayard Streets in Chinatown . The Justice for the Sentosa 27++ Campaign site can be accessed at www.s27plus.com. ###

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