Nurses Union Endores Sanders

National Nurses United, the activist and progressive nurses union that was the first to endorse Sen. Bernie Sanders’s 2016 Democratic presidential run, formally took the lead again, for the 2020 campaign, on Nov. 15.

The union executive board voted for Sanders after inviting five Democratic presidential hopefuls for interviews, polling its 150,000-plus members and extensive discussions. That’s because, unlike four years ago, there was more than one credible candidate, NNU said. Sanders was the only hopeful who came to the union for a sit-down interview.

Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., called in for a long video chat about her views. NNU is the top union backer of Medicare For All, which is a leading issue on the campaign trail. Vermont Independent Sanders, in his words, “wrote the damn bill.”

“Nurses are beyond tired of watching our patients suffer and die needlessly, simply due to inability to pay, and we know Bernie Sanders is, and has been, leading on Medicare For All,” union Executive Director Bonnie Castillo, RN, said in a statement.

Warren also strongly supports Medicare For All, but released her own version of it. The other candidate who responded to NNU, Fort Wayne, Ind., Mayor Pete Buttigieg, sent a three- minute video and does not back Medicare For All. Former Vice President Joe Biden, and Sen. Kamala Harris, D-Calif. – NNU’s top state -- did not respond to NNU’s invitation to talk.

Four other unions, notably the Communications Workers and the Postal Workers (APWU) endorsed Sanders four years ago, but later than NNU did.

“For nurses, our solidarity is a matter of life or death for our patients. We need a president who makes it easier for us to stand together and hold our employers accountable for putting people above profits,” NNU President Jean Ross, a Minnesota RN, said in a statement.

“Bernie Sanders is leading all the candidates on labor, with his Workplace Democracy Act, and as a cosponsor of the Protecting the Right to Organize (Pro) Act,” the comprehensive labor law reform bill which unions and pro-union lawmakers co-wrote and have introduced, NNU said.

NNU also lauded Sanders’s advocacy of the Green New Deal – a cause which in the past pitted NNU and its allies against building trades unions – his support of safe staffing ratios for nurses treating patients (which angers hospitals and insurers) and his advocacy of forcing health care institutions to act against workplace violence.

They also applaud his stands on racial and gender justice, for comprehensive immigration reform and for making college available and affordable to all. But if Sanders doesn’t win, Ross added, NNU will support the Democratic nominee against GOP incumbent Donald Trump.