Although not a nurse himself, David Campbell, JD, has spent decades advocating for WSNA-represented nurses. His commitment to RNs is unwavering. Through his work, he has improved working conditions for nurses and addressed patient safety concerns in every possible legal venue: in court, at arbitrations, during contract negotiations and in the legislative arena. The advances Campbell has made for WSNA and the nursing profession will be felt for decades to come.
Campbell graduated from the University of Washington School of Law in 1983 and has been zealously advocating for labor unions and the workers they represent ever since. He is principal partner at Schwerin Campbell Barnard Iglitzin & Lavitt, LLP, where his experience includes major federal and state litigation, collective bargaining, proceedings before the National Labor Relations Board, organizing campaigns, strikes, contract administration and arbitrations. Campbell is also an adjunct professor at both the University of Washington School of Law and the Seattle University School of Law, where he teaches labor law and negotiation.
The work Campbell has done with WSNA to compel hospitals to give nurses rest and meal breaks has gone all the way to the State Supreme Court, with precedent-setting wins for nurses. The impact of this work cannot be overstated. This successful legal strategy, with Campbell as the primary facilitator and lead counsel for WSNA, has had a deep and abiding impact on nurses’ rights to receive rest breaks and get compensation for breaks that are denied.
Rest and meal breaks are essential to reduce fatigue on the job and ensure that nurses can safely and consistently provide the highest quality care for their patients.
It started in 2007 with the lawsuit WSNA filed against Sacred Heart Medical Center in Spokane on behalf of the 1,600 nurses WSNA represented there, arguing that nurses deserved pay for the thousands of rest breaks they had been denied. WSNA v. Sacred Heart Medical Center, decided by the State Supreme Court in 2012, established the right to overtime pay for missed rest breaks and expanded the right to rest breaks for nurses. This groundbreaking decision created a financial penalty for hospitals’ failure to provide breaks and initiated a cascade of legal wins around the state.
In 2010, WSNA filed four additional lawsuits, on similar grounds, against Good Samaritan Hospital, Tacoma General Hospital, Evergreen Hospital Medical Center and Holy Family Hospital in Spokane.
In 2011, WSNA reached a significant settlement agreement with Evergreen Hospital resulting in improved timekeeping and recordkeeping requirements, appropriate pay for missed breaks and entitlement to full, uninterrupted breaks.
In 2013, WSNA reached a major settlement agreement requiring that MultiCare, owner of Tacoma General and Good Samaritan, adopt mechanisms, policies or practices to assure nurses are completely relieved of patient care duties during rest breaks.
In 2015, in an arbitration case enforcing its settlement agreement with Tacoma General, WSNA won a landmark award compelling MultiCare to abandon its “break buddy” system, which continued to leave nurses on call during breaks and doubled patient care loads, often beyond safe limits, for nurse “buddies” providing coverage. WSNA is currently defending the arbitration award in the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals.
In 2016, WSNA reached a settlement with Franciscan Health-St. Joseph Medical Center in a lawsuit brought the year before on behalf of 1,200 nurses for denial of rest breaks, meal breaks and overtime pay. The settlement agreement provided $5 million in back pay to nurses for missed breaks and put an end to intermittent breaks at St. Joseph in Tacoma through commitments to implement block rest breaks across the hospital and to create 26 FTE new, dedicated break-relief nurses.
The cascade of successes continues. This year, home health and hospice nurses at Yakima Regional Medical and Cardiac Center were awarded nearly $2.9 million in back pay for the significant number of hours they had been forced to work off the clock.
Taken together, Campbell’s legal efforts on behalf of WSNA have set new standards on rest and meal breaks for nurses. His novel utilization of the Minimum Wage Act to compel overtime pay for nurses who missed breaks set a precedent that other attorneys have successfully utilized to win stronger rest break policies and compensation for missed rest breaks across the state.
In the legislative arena, Campbell has acted as counsel and advisor on many bills including nurse staffing laws. He has worked with WSNA’s legislative staff to lobby the Washington State Department of Labor & Industries regarding guidance on rest breaks and mandatory overtime.
Campbell has been a force at the bargaining table as well, negotiating on behalf of WSNA to win huge contractual gains for nurses. From securing wage increases to improving staffing language and resisting employer attempts at takeaways, Campbell has fought tirelessly to achieve major contractual victories that have improved working conditions for nurses. Among his accomplishments, Campbell was lead negotiator in the late 2016 contract victory at MultiCare Tacoma General Hospital that, for the first time in Washington state, established unit-specific nurse-to-patient ratios in a collective bargaining agreement.
The contractual, legislative and litigation-based wins Campbell has achieved have set high standards for working conditions, nurses’ rights and patient care that WSNA-represented nurses will enjoy for decades to come. Whether arbitrating to enforce nurses’ contractual rights or taking legal battles all the way to the State Supreme Court, Campbell has dedicated his career to championing WSNA’s members and improving working conditions and patient safety for nurses throughout the state.