Fired pro-union PIRG fundraiser takes settlement after devastating crash

After an SUV slammed into their motorcycle in the early morning of July 5, fired phone fundraiser David Neel (right) and his fiancée Stephanie Castillo have months of recovery ahead of them. The accident prompted Neel to settle his National Labor Relations Board case against Fund for the Public Interest, the non-profit fundraiser for PIRGs, which fired him in November 2012 after he emerged as a union leader.
After an SUV slammed into their motorcycle in the early morning of July 5, fired phone fundraiser David Neel (right) and his fiancée Stephanie Castillo have months of recovery ahead of them. The accident prompted Neel to settle his National Labor Relations Board case against Fund for the Public Interest, the non-profit fundraiser for PIRGs, which fired him in November 2012 after he emerged as a union leader.

By DON McINTOSH, Associate Editor

David Neel’s 20-month fight for reinstatement ended with a crash.

Neel, 37, is a telephone fundraiser who believes passionately in the union movement. He helped win a 2012 campaign by workers at the Portland call center of PIRG-affiliated Fund for the Public Interest to join Communications Workers of America (CWA) Local 7901, and then became an active volunteer on the union contract bargaining team. Then on Nov. 6, 2012, he was fired on a string of trumped-up accusations.

I wanted them to be forced to do the right thing.” — fired telephone fundraiser David Neel

Neel, unlike at least 12 other pro-union workers fired by the Fund for the Public Interest, was able to prove to a National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) agent and a federal judge that his union activism was a factor in his firing. The judge ordered the Fund to reinstate Neel with back pay, but the Fund appealed to the NLRB’s five-member board in Washington, D.C. The Fund lost there too, and then appeared to defy a May 2014 Board order for reinstatement. The Fund wanted Neel to accept a financial settlement in return for waiving his right to reinstatement, but Neel refused.

“I wanted them to be forced to do the right thing,” Neel said. “I wanted to go back.”

But in early morning July 5, Neel and his fiancee Stephanie Castillo were heading home on his 1982 Yamaha motorcycle after a night out watching fireworks. As they stopped for traffic on Southeast Milwaukie Boulevard and Ochoco, a Ford Explorer SUV plowed into them. Neel and Castillo survived the crash, but suffered significant injuries. Castillo stayed in the hospital 10 days with a shattered pelvis, a broken ankle, and two fractured vertebrae. Neel was in the hospital three days with a concussion, four fractured vertebrae, and head lacerations. On release, she’s in a wheelchair, and he’s walking with a cane, and they have months of recovery ahead of them. Pondering medical bills and lost wages, and with two teenage sons to support, Neel decided to accept the settlement.

The terms of the settlement, approved in mid-August by the NLRB and CWA Local 7901, are that the Fund pay Neel $19,088 of backpay and interest, plus $7,000 for waiving his right to reinstatement.

“David would be coming back to work if it weren’t for that horrific accident,” said CWA Local 7901 President Madelyn Elder. “The NLRB found the Fund in the wrong. They wrongfully fired him, and they need to stop discriminating against union people.”

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