Cindy Ochoa’s long — but ultimately successful — quest for justice is a case study in just how reprehensible SEIU 775’s operatives can be, how little concern the union has for anything but its members’ dues money and how doggedly the Freedom Foundation pursues litigation on behalf of workers’ rights.
On March 29, the union agreed to pay Ochoa $15,000 and surrender another $13,000 in attorneys’ fees to settle a lawsuit filed by the Freedom Foundation after an SEIU 775 operative was found to have forged her signature on a membership application.
In 2017, Ochoa, a Spokane homecare provider who had left SEIU 775 shortly after the U.S. Supreme Court’s 2014 ruling in Harris v. Quinn, contacted the Freedom Foundation when she noticed the union was again deducting dues from her paycheck.
A year earlier, Ochoa had been visited at her home by a union representative, who pressured her to rejoin. When she refused, the canvasser apparently signed her name on a membership card and turned it in to the union, which wasn’t concerned with its authenticity.
The forgery took place in 2016 and the deductions from Ochoa’s checks resumed soon after, extending into 2017.
Ochoa spent hours on the phone, sending mail and emailing the union attempting to end the illegal dues deductions. The Freedom Foundation intervened on her behalf in early 2018 and, after contacting SEIU and demanding the dues stop, union officials admitted the signatures did not match and ceased withdrawing dues.
Less than one month later, however, SEIU 775 resumed dues deductions — this time for unspecified reasons. And just as before, Ochoa had to waste time, energy and resources to attempt to have SEIU.
Consequently, the Freedom Foundation last October filed a claim in federal court for violations of her First Amendment rights, emotional distress and unlawful withholding of wages.
By the time the case was settled in March, SEIU 775 wanted out so badly it used a specific “offer of judgment” rule to do so.
SEIU 775 agreed to pay Ochoa for the harm to her caused by the union’s forgery and subsequent behavior. SEIU 775 leaders also agreed to send her a written apology and pay the Freedom Foundation’s attorneys’ fees, as well.
An offer of judgment, unlike a common settlement offer, is not confidential. In fact, it’s filed with the court and becomes part of the public record about the lawsuit.
SEIU 775 could see the writing on the wall. Ochoa was not only certain to win her suit, but the publicity would lay bare the union’s despicable tactics.
So the union ordered it lawyers to do what they always do when stalling tactics don’t work — buy your way out of trouble with dues money collected from Ochoa and hardworking caregivers like herself who haven’t yet been able to free themselves from SEIU 775’s tentacles.