If Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton are polling near neck-and-neck in California, the first union in the nation to back Sanders — the National Nurses United (NNU) — will proudly take its share of the credit.
The largest nurses union in the United States, a large part of the 180,000 member NNU is the California Nurses Association, with more than 60 percent of its membership being Asian American.
And in California, which will hold its primary Tuesday, Zenei Cortez, the Filipino-American vice president of the NNU, isn’t shy to speak up for her candidate.
“We really love him because he is what we are about,” Cortez told NBC News. “If you do a comparison between the nurses values and Bernie’s, it’s all about the caring, the compassion, and community.”
Cortez said the biggest lure was Sanders stand on Medicare for all, a single-payer health care system.
But the Sanders' appeal for the nurses goes beyond health care. Cortez mentioned a June 1 summit of 2,001 AAPI organization leaders just before a large Sanders’ rally in Palo Alto.
The union backed Sanders in August of 2015, but not before it took a national poll among its members. Sanders topped that too, Cortez said. From the beginning of 2016 to the end of March, the union's political action committee has spent nearly $2.3 million, according to Federal Elections Commission filings.
The vote surprised Cortez, but watching Sanders, she had a simple explanation.
“Bernie is all about ordinary people,” Cortez said. “When we started the campaign educating members, I think we were able to flip a lot of our members and our community. … He is listening to the people. He’s not just listening to the upper classes of the country.”
Cortez refuses to buy into the scenario that the race is over no matter what happens in the California Primary on June 7. She will be one of 156 nurses who are delegates to the Democratic National Convention.
“We’re not giving up on the campaign or on our country either,” Cortez said.