Responding to allegations of gender discrimination and sexual harassment from some people who worked on Sen. Bernie Sanders' (I-Vt.) 2016 presidential campaign, National Nurses United (NNU)—which endorsed the senator's bid for president—is calling on all candidates in the 2020 race "to establish strong, mandatory rules to protect staffers and volunteers from all forms of sexual harassment, and to ensure pay equity for all paid campaign staff."
"Strong mechanisms must be put in place to prevent harassment, that include full accountability for those who engage in such reprehensible behavior and by those with oversight responsibility."
—Bonnie Castillo, NNU
"Sexual harassment can never be treated as business as usual or swept under the rug. Apologies alone are not enough. Strong mechanisms must be put in place to prevent harassment, that include full accountability for those who engage in such reprehensible behavior and by those with oversight responsibility," NNU executive director Bonnie Castillo, RN, said in a statement on Thursday.
While noting that "sexual harassment continues to be a widespread concern that touches every corner of our society, and every workplace, including political campaigns," and "as an organization of nurses, who are predominantly women, we are acutely aware of the pervasive, appalling national problem," Castillo added that "it is especially important that candidates for our highest office set a standard" with comprehensive policies to prevent discrimination and harassment, and to adequately serve the needs of survivors.
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The union's call follows a letter—leaked to Politico—from more than two dozen former Sanders campaigners seeking a meeting with the senator and his top staffers to "discuss the issue of sexual violence and harassment on the 2016 campaign, for the purpose of planning to mitigate the issue in the upcoming presidential cycle." Friends of Bernie Sanders, his main campaign committee, thanked those who signed the letter for coming forward "to engage in this incredibly important discussion."
Sanders said he was unaware of the allegations during his last presidential run, but apologized to "any woman who feels like she was not treated appropriately" and vowed, "Of course, if I run, we will do better next time." He has not yet announced whether he plans to make a play for the Democratic nomination in 2020, but as Common Dreams reported Thursday, his backers aren't wasting any time building up "an infrastructure and base of support that will give him a distinct advantage in what is expected to be a crowded Democratic field."
The only high-profile Democrat to signal their plans to run for the Oval Office in 2020 is Sen. Elizabeth Warren (Mass.), who announced on Monday the formation of an exploratory committee to examine her viability as a candidate.