A union allegedly forged a single mother's signature to deduct money that helps her care for her disabled daughter, according to a lawsuit.
Maria Quezambra of California filed a federal lawsuit seeking to recover dues that she says United Domestic Workers Local 3930 (UDW) improperly took from the money that helps her take care of her daughter. She accused the union of misleading her about dues requirements, rebuffing her attempts to recover money, and trespassing on her property.
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"Ms. Quezambra did not sign anything indicating she desired to become a union member or pay union dues, and the State began to deduct Union dues from her paycheck automatically," the suit says. "The Union forged Ms. Quezambra's signature to justify past dues deductions and to lock her into paying full union dues each year."
The Supreme Court struck down Illinois's mandatory dues scheme for home health aides like Quezambra in 2014, ruling that they were not public employees. The Court followed that ruling by forbidding forced public sector unions in 2018. The union never informed Quezambra of her right to abstain from dues payments. Her suit alleges that the union misled her into believing dues were mandatory and delayed her attempts to withdraw.
The dispute came to a head in March when she asked UDW to supply a membership card she never recalled signing. The union initially offered to reimburse her dues dating back to 2015, but refused to give her a copy of the card on file. Quezambra continued to ask for it; in April the union sent her a copy. It was riddled with errors.
"The information on the membership and dues deduction authorization card contained errors and omissions the Union either knew or should have known showed the card was not completed by Ms. Quezambra," the suit says. "The card did not have an email address, contained the wrong birthdate, included the phone number of Ms. Quezambra's former spouse, and included a signature in light colored felt pen that in no way resembled Ms. Quezambra's signature."
The union did not respond to request for comment.
Quezambra is now seeking a full refund of the money the union has taken out of her checks dating back to 2012. She said the union had never sought her approval and does not represent her interests. Nevertheless she was reluctant to bring the suit.
"She does not believe that the Union adequately advocates for her interests, and she does not support the political, ideological, and social causes for which the Union advocates," the suit says. "If the Union immediately returned all money in dues, she would forego seeking the interest and punitive damages to which she may otherwise be entitled."
Quezambra is being represented by the Washington-state-based Freedom Foundation, a pro-free market think tank. Karin Sweigart, a foundation attorney, called the union's actions "outrageous." The alleged abuse suffered by Quezambra and her daughter was further exacerbated by the home visits from union officials over her objections after she attempted to sever ties. The decision amounted to intimidation and trespassing.
"Trespassing on a person's property against his or her will, frightening the person's disabled child, and forging a signature to obtain money from the person should not be tolerated," Sweigart said in a statement. "Just forging someone's signature to commit that person to paying for union advocacy or political causes against that person's will would be bad enough. But because the violation is also a constitutional one, the conduct is doubly egregious"
The lawsuit comes as the Trump administration works to end forced dues schemes for home health aides. The Department of Health and Human Services Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services announced it would no longer allow states to divert money to third party groups. The Trump administration said disabled Americans and their caregivers should not see their money given to special interest groups.
"State Medicaid programs are responsible for ensuring that taxpayer dollars are dedicated to providing healthcare services for low-income, vulnerable Americans and are not diverted in ways that do not comply with federal law," CMS Administrator Seema Verma said in the announcement. "This final rule is intended to ensure that providers receive their complete payment."
The proposal is in the midst of a 60-day comment period with a final regulation scheduled to come in July.