Fired AFSCME supporter wins $20,000 back pay


Michael Rainey


Portland homeless service provider All Good Northwest agreed to pay $20,220 to a worker who was fired for speaking to reporters about unsafe work conditions last year. 

All Good Northwest signed a settlement agreement with Oregon AFSCME in February resolving two unfair labor practice charges the union filed, including a charge that it illegally fired Michael Rainey. The former case manager was fired two weeks after workers voted to affiliate with Oregon AFSCME. A supervisor told him it was because he talked to the Labor Press and Willamette Week about unsafe conditions at the tiny house village All Good Northwest ran in Old Town. The camp had needles spilling out of sharps containers; unhygienic bathrooms with blood, urine and feces on the floor; empty fire extinguishers; and minimal training for staff on how to handle blood and overdose situations. The camp has since been shut down. 

The National Labor Relations Act (NLRA) protects workers from retaliation if they speak out about health or safety concerns, like Rainey had done. So Oregon AFSCME filed a charge with the National Labor Relations Board. The union also filed a charge alleging that the nonprofit violated the NLRA by coercing workers to vote “no” in the union election. (They voted 15-3 to unionize last June.)

Although Rainey was offered reinstatement as part of the settlement, he decided not to return to All Good Northwest. In the fall, he started a new job with the Native American Rehabilitation Association of the Northwest. 

The $20,220 settlement makes him whole for lost wages and other relevant expenses between his termination from All Good and the start of his new job. The settlement also requires All Good Northwest to distribute to all employees a notice of workers’ rights under the NLRA, and promises not to violate those rights. Supervisors and managers must take a 45-minute training on workers’ rights with the National Labor Relations Board. 

“The union did what it was supposed to do,” Rainey said. “I’m really glad to have been part of the process, as stressful as getting fired was.” 

Rainey said he doesn’t regret speaking up, and that he would do it again if he ever needed to. And now he knows how state and federal protections sometimes differ. For example, he filed a whistle blower retaliation complaint with Oregon’s Bureau of Labor and Industries, but that claim was dismissed because there was not enough evidence that All Good violated state laws. That’s in part because Rainey had signed an employee handbook with a confidentiality clause. 

“Federal law in the NLRA superseded that in this case. … State and local law, not so much,” Rainey said. “It’s definitely been a learning experience in seeing what rights workers have, and what rights they don’t and we need to continue to fight for.” 

Workers at his new job are not union-represented, but they also are not dealing with the same unsafe workplace conditions Rainey saw at All Good Northwest. He said he enjoys his new team and finds the work very fulfilling. 

He also stays in touch with his former coworkers at All Good Northwest, who are negotiating their first union contract. 

“I’m still very much in support of the union effort there,” Rainey said. “I hope the bargaining team can continue to push for better working conditions that will benefit both workers and the villagers.” 


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