Press release: NUHW members endorse Warren, Sanders for president

NewsSeptember 26, 2019

Statewide Vote by Key California Union Delivers Presidential Endorsement to Senators Warren and Sanders

Members of the National Union of Healthcare Workers from across California voted to endorse the two progressive leaders. NUHW’s executive board voted to provide resources and grassroots support to both campaigns. Harris and Biden finished third and fourth in balloting by the membership; Trump finished sixth.

The National Union of Healthcare Workers announced today that the members of the union have voted to endorse both Sen. Elizabeth Warren and Sen. Bernie Sanders with California’s March Presidential primaries fast approaching. Fifteen thousand NUHW members in California were eligible to vote by text and email in an election that was run by an outside voting firm. 

The gap between the frontrunners was so close that the union’s executive board decided on Wednesday, after a review of the vote outcome, that the most appropriate reflection of the will of the membership was to offer grassroots support to both the Warren and Sanders campaigns.

 “This is not your typical union endorsement. We didn’t tell our members how to vote, they told us,” said NUHW President Sal Rosselli. “We trust our members and their judgments and the outcome of this vote reflects the collective will of members from San Diego to the Oregon border. Our members clearly like both Senators Warren and Sanders. And, after reviewing the vote totals, our executive board felt that an endorsement of both candidates was most fair due to the closeness of the vote.”  

NUHW Members began voting on Sunday, Sept 22 and balloting ended on Wednesday, Sept 25. Members were able to vote for up to three candidates, but could not vote for the same candidate more than once. Members who voted for more than one candidate did not rank their preference.

Warren received the most votes, appearing on 61 percent of member ballots. Sanders appeared on 50 percent of member ballots, followed by Sen. Kamala Harris who appeared on 34 percent of ballots and former Vice President Joe Biden who appeared on 32 percent of ballots. Rounding out the top six were South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg, who appeared on 21 percent of ballots and President Trump, who appeared on 12 percent of ballots. Overall, 77 percent of members who cast ballots voted for Warren or Sanders. (See below for full tally.)

“I’m honored to have the backing of the National Union of Healthcare Workers,” Sen. Warren said. “They have been on the front lines fighting for working people every day and their work is crucial to rebuilding America’s middle class. We need NUHW to win in 2020 and make the change we need to make.” 

“I am incredibly honored to receive the endorsement of the hard-working members of the National Union of Healthcare Workers, who make immense sacrifices every day to provide quality healthcare to the American people,” Sen. Sanders said. “With your support, and the support of hundreds of thousands of union members across the country, we are building a movement that will transform American politics. Our campaign will never stop fighting for a future in which unions are empowered, patients receive quality care, and healthcare is a right — not a privilege — for every man, woman, and child.”

The balloting period followed video presentations by both live hookup and recorded messages supplied by the major campaigns. The video presentations were shown to 400 NUHW leaders at the union’s leadership conference held over the weekend in Anaheim and then provided online to the full membership. 

While he failed to provide a video message or submit materials, President Trump’s name also appeared on the NUHW endorsement ballot, as did the names of his Republican primary challengers.

Discussion at the leadership conference, like the final vote totals, showed little support for the Trump presidency by NUHW’s membership. One member went to a microphone at the leadership conference and said she would “rather vote for a baked potato than Donald Trump.” In contrast, some of those who went to the microphones spoke of the “coherence” of Warren’s message and the way that Sanders “has shifted the conversation to health care, economic opportunity and climate change.”

Sen. Kamala Harris has been endorsed by NUHW in her races for California Attorney General and U.S. Senate, but came in third in the vote count for the presidential endorsement. “It’s unfortunate, but I know our members continue to have tremendous respect for Sen. Harris and her work on behalf of all Californians,” said Rosselli. 

The NUHW early endorsement vote, representing a key constituency of politically-engaged union members, including psychologists, housekeepers, medical technicians, nurses and pharmacists, who reside in every California congressional district, became a key bellwether during the state’s 2018 gubernatorial election.  

Like the Iowa straw poll, NUHW’s coveted early endorsement has a track record of picking winners among a large field of candidates. NUHW hosted the first debate of the Democratic candidates in September 2017.  After a spirited forum featuring all of the major Democratic candidates, a vote by NUHW members delivered the union’s endorsement to then Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom. Newsom went on to finish first in primary voting in June 2018 and to win the governor’s race that November. 

“I’m proud to belong to a union where we decide which candidates to support,” said Marirose Occhiogrosso a mental health therapist and NUHW member. “It was very informative to hear from so many candidates and read their positions on issues that matter to us and all working people. I’m excited to go out and support our candidates.” 


Final Tally
Candidate Percentage of ballots on which they appeared

Elizabeth Warren 61

Bernie Sanders 50

Kamala Harris 34

Joe Biden 32

Pete Buttigieg 21

Donald Trump 12

Beto O’Rourke 8

Cory Booker 7

Andrew Yang 6

Julian Castro 4

Tulsi Gabbard 4

Amy Klobuchar 4

Joe Walsh 3

Mark Sanford 3

William Weld 3

Marianne Williamson 3

Tom Steyer 1

Michael Bennet 1

Steve Bullock <1

Bill de Blasio <1

John Delaney <1


The National Union of Healthcare Workers is a democratic, member-led union that represents 15,000 California healthcare workers, mental health clinicians, optical workers, and healthcare professionals.