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Nursing and Migration in Filipino American History Essay

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Updated: Feb 12th, 2021

U.S. programs to recruit nursing workers from the Philippines, and to Hawai’i

In the early twentieth century, the United States focused on attracting many nursing workers from the Philippines to all the states of the country, including the territory of Hawaii. The recruitment process was successful because the immigration laws were liberalized, and definite programs for nursing workers were proposed to improve the nurses’ qualifications to prepare them for working in American hospitals. The colonial rule of the USA in the Philippines influenced the visions of Filipino nurses in relation to their work and career opportunities in America (Choy). Thus, many Filipino nurses focused on discussing the economic and social opportunities of working in the USA because of economic advantages.

To attract the workforce from the Philippines, the United States established certain programs developed for migrant employees. The Filipino nurses were trained according to the American standards of nursing in order to be successfully hired in American hospitals. However, the first schools for nurses were established in the Philippines in the early years of the twentieth century, and the system was developed later (Choy).

Thus, the Philippine professionals were actively recruited in the USA because of their training based on the principles and standards of the American nursing programs. Moreover, the international labor migration of nurses was supported by the improved American laws.

If the recruitment of nurses from the Philippines was based on the workers’ qualifications and training, the principles of workers’ recruitment in Hawaii depended on their desire and readiness to work much and effectively. The liberalization of migration laws led to the improved transnational migration of workers of different races and identities (Jung).

U.S. government legislation affecting nursing and plantation workers

The migration of workers during the twentieth century was intensive because of the specific aspects of the US government’s legislation which influenced the labor migration of nurses from the Philippines and activities of the plantation workers in Hawaii.

In spite of the fact, Filipino nurses had the opportunity to receive the necessary training in the Philippines according to the American standards and to learn the English language, the decision of many nursing workers to leave their homeland and start their career in the USA depended on the effects of the 1965 Immigration Act. During the earlier period of the twentieth century, few nurses could really succeed in the USA developing their career because of being immigrants and having few rights.

The situation changed in 1965 when the Immigration Act was adopted. Filipino nurses received the opportunity to settle in the American states as permanent residents. As a result, the rates of nurses willing to work in the USA increased significantly. Furthermore, the increased number of foreign nurses responded to the growing demands of US hospitals for nursing workers (Choy). The second part of the 1960s is characterized by the significant and stable increase of the migration process in relation to the nursing industry.

The 1965 Immigration Act influenced the migration processes positively. The situation was different in relation to the rights of plantation workers in Hawaii when Martial law began to be realized within the territories. However, the Martial law along with the Wagner Act of 1945 became beneficial for workers after World War II because these laws and associated legislation procedures affected the processes of organizing the workers into the labor unions. Before the authorities started to focus on Martial law in Hawaii, plantation workers had not been active to organize specific labor unions (Jung 159-162). From this perspective, Martial law made workers concentrate on their rights and create labor alliances.

Professional vs. working-class organizing found

One of the most important professional organizations of Filipino nurses is the Filipino Nurses Association (FNA) which was founded in 1922. Many Filipino nurses working in the USA suffered from different issues associated with discrimination and disrespect. The Filipino nurses were regularly abused at their workplaces in the USA because of their racial difference and status as immigrants. To improve the working conditions and the general situation, the Filipino nurses combined their efforts and organized the FNA in order to have the opportunity to control the discriminating actions of the Americans against the foreign nurses (Choy).

The activities of the International Longshoremen’s and Warehousemen’s Union (ILWU) were also connected with the racial issues and discrimination of the migrant workers in Hawaii (Jung). Thus, in spite of the fact the activities and paths of the FNA and the ILWU were rather different, these organizations can be compared in relation to their focus on race and racial issues which are typical for migrant or transnational workers.

Furthermore, the ILWU as well as the FNA were established as the organizations to protect the rights and interests of migrant workers suffered from discrimination. The ILWU was organized as the most effective labor union in Hawaii, and the FNA was founded as a professional organization to respond to the needs of the migrant nurses. Despite the differences in principles and definite goals, these organizations helped migrant employees feel comfortable working in the USA.

“Interracialism” by Jung

In Reworking Race: The Making of Hawaii’s Interracial Labor Movement, Jung pays much attention to the concept of ‘interracialism’ as the key notion to explain the success of Hawaii in developing effective labor organizations. According to Jung, interracialism is “the ideology and practice of forming a political community across extant racial boundaries” (Jung 3). As a result, people begin not to notice the possible racial boundaries and not to focus on them, accentuating the identity as the concept which is more significant than the racial boundary.

Interracialism is a critical part of Jung’s argument because the author develops his idea of the missing role of races in uniting and organizing the labor movement. Focusing on the example of the labor organizations in Hawaii, Jung states that race cannot be discussed as a significant factor for uniting people in labor organizations anymore (Jung).

It is possible to discuss two reasons for the author’s focus on reworking the concept of the race instead of using the idea of ‘deracialization’. Thus, the understandings of the class were reworked with references to paying much attention to the idea of race as the identity of workers and elimination of the general role of racism as the cause to discriminate, oppress, and segregate workers. Thus, capitalists treated workers in different manners as well as discriminated against them also differently, and this situation allowed speaking about “different racisms” (Jung 61).

From this point, concentrating on a race with recognizing its peculiarities, workers chose the notions of identities as important to unite their efforts to overcome the discriminating policies realized by the American capitalists. The concept of race was reworked. Moreover, workers experienced different effects of discrimination because of “different racisms”, but this fact became the uniting factor for establishing labor organizations in the future where the concept of race was not a crucial one.

Utilizing Chapter 4 in Jung, explain why the ILWU emerged as such a crucial organization. Why did the ILWU’s relationship with other labor unions make such a difference? What was the significance of the NLRB?

The labor movement in Hawaii was rather disorganized before the late 1930s. The organization of the International Longshoremen’s and Warehousemen’s Union (ILWU) attracted a lot of people because this organization provided new opportunities for workers to protect their rights. The start of the organization’s work was associated with many strikes, and a lot of workers became aware of their economic role within the country.

The significance of workers in the process of production was emphasized with references to economic and political issues. From this point, the ILWU regulated not only working and production issues but also affected the political development of the region. The ILWU contributed to the organization of the democratic labor movement in Hawaii by focusing on the rightwing powers of the US government (Jung). The special status of the ILWU was based on the interracial character of the union.

The National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) was also significant for forming the effective labor movement in Hawaii. The NLRB was established earlier than the ILWU, but this organization used less progressive methods to protect the workers’ interests in comparison with the effective interracial strategy developed by the ILWU. The significance of the NLRB is in proposing the first opportunities for workers to join the labor union and protect their rights and interests, discussing the issues of discrimination and oppression (Jung). Thus, the organization of the NLRB was the first step in developing the effective labor movement in the region, and this initiative was successfully followed by the ILWU.

Works Cited

Choy, Catherine Ceniza. Empire of Care: Nursing and Migration in Filipino American History. Durham: Duke University Press, 2003. Print.

Jung, Moon Kie. Reworking Race: The Making of Hawai’s Interracial Labor Movement. New York: Columbia University Press, 2010. Print.

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"Nursing and Migration in Filipino American History." IvyPanda, 12 Feb. 2021, ivypanda.com/essays/nursing-and-migration-in-filipino-american-history/.

1. IvyPanda. "Nursing and Migration in Filipino American History." February 12, 2021. https://ivypanda.com/essays/nursing-and-migration-in-filipino-american-history/.


IvyPanda. "Nursing and Migration in Filipino American History." February 12, 2021. https://ivypanda.com/essays/nursing-and-migration-in-filipino-american-history/.


IvyPanda. 2021. "Nursing and Migration in Filipino American History." February 12, 2021. https://ivypanda.com/essays/nursing-and-migration-in-filipino-american-history/.


IvyPanda. (2021) 'Nursing and Migration in Filipino American History'. 12 February.

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