Costa Mesa, Calif., resident Maria Quezambra on Thursday filed a federal lawsuit against the union representing her, alleging it forged her signature on a membership card, illegally took dues from her paycheck for over five years, and then trespassed on her property against her express wishes to bully her into maintaining membership.
Quezambra, a single parent who has cared for her disabled daughter under the state’s In-Home Supportive Service Provider (IHSS) program since 2012, claims she never agreed to join United Domestic Workers (UDW) Local 3930, yet the Union began taking dues from her in 2013.
Union membership, or payment of a so-called “agency fee,” was a requirement to participate in the program when she started, and dues were automatically deducted from her paychecks. But a 2014 U.S. Supreme Court ruling made any union participation optional for taxpayer-compensated homecare providers.
Since the state automatically began deducting dues from Quezambra, she erroneously believed union membership was mandatory. It wasn’t until February 2019 that she learned from a Facebook support group for IHSS providers that union membership and payment of union dues were optional. Quezambra immediately resigned from the union and demanded dues deductions cease.
And since she never signed a membership card, she demanded to be shown the card the union claimed to have on file for her.
She also communicated her desire that no union representative come to her home.
The union sent operatives to her home about a month later despite her affirmative prohibition – an experience that frightened her disabled daughter.
Around the same time, the union finally acknowledged her request and admitted she had not properly authorized the dues deductions. The union offered to refund the dues deducted since 2015, claiming the prior years were excluded under a three-year statute of limitations. Quezambra rejected the offer and instead, offered to forego seeking interest and punitive damages if the union fully reimbursed her from the time she became a provider.
In April, Quezambra persisted in demanding a copy of the membership card UDW claimed she had signed. When the union finally acquiesced, the signature on the membership card was clearly a forgery and the document was riddled with errors and omissions.
The union sent Quezambra a slightly larger refund check, but the amount did not match her offer. Quezambra rejected the counter offer, returned the check and decided to file a lawsuit.
“The union’s conduct toward Ms. Quezambra is outrageous,” said Karin Sweigart, an attorney for the Freedom Foundation, a nonprofit public policy organization representing her in the suit.
“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,” she said. “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, filed in Los Angeles with the United States District Court for the Western District of California, lists UDW Local 3930 as a defendant, along with Orange County, California Controller Betty Yee and State Attorney General Xavier Becerra.
In addition to recognition the union violated her First Amendment rights by improperly deducting dues and failing to maintain adequate safeguards to avoid the forgery, Quezambra is also demanding the full refund of all dues with interest and punitive damages related to the trespassing and the emotional distress it inflicted.