Nearly 200 elected rank-and-file leaders representing 11,000 members of the National Union of Healthcare Workers voted 72% to endorse Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders in the 2016 Democratic presidential primary at the union’s annual Leadership Conference, convened October 10 in Pasadena, Calif.
Senator Sanders’ message of reversing economic inequalities; his support for a single-payer healthcare system, Medicare for All; and his stance of holding HMOs like Kaiser Permanente accountable for failing to comply with mental health parity laws, resonated with NUHW members.
“We’ve had a great relationship with Senator Sanders for years,” said NUHW President Sal Rosselli. “He’s the real thing. He’s been standing up for working Americans for decades. But no president can go it alone; it will take a bottom-up, grassroots movement to change the direction of our country. NUHW is proud to be part of that movement.”
The vote was the culmination of a three-month, bottom-up, democratic process. The union’s Executive Board, consisting of elected rank-and-file members, sent questionnaires to every Republican and Democratic candidate. Union stewards reviewed the questionnaires and discussed the election at monthly steward council meetings at each NUHW-represented hospital, clinic, and nursing home, and discussed the candidates with their constituent members in each facility. And finally, on October 10, leaders from throughout the union gathered in Pasadena to cast their ballots.
Hillary Clinton garnered 17 percent of NUHW members’ vote in the Democratic column. Eighty-six percent voted not to endorse a Republican candidate.
NUHW is a democratic, member-led union representing 11,000 healthcare workers at hospitals, nursing homes, and clinics throughout California. NUHW-represented Kaiser employees have played a central role in sparking a national debate on mental health care by holding Kaiser accountable for its illegal delays and denials of mental health services to its members. For more information, seeNUHW.org and NUHW.org/Kaiser.