Few Protections for Workers Whose Unions Rip Them Off

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Maria Quezambra was ripped off for six years by the United Domestic Workers of America (UDWA) after someone at the union forged her signature on a membership card. That should seem like a clear case of wrongdoing. Yet, a district court judge said last week that was OK because the state of California was helping the union to scam her.

I exaggerate but only slightly. District Court Judge Josephine Staton, an Obama appointee, tossed out Quezambra’s case seeking to get paid back the dues wrongfully taken from her by the UDWA, an affiliate of the powerful American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees.

Staton ruled that the union didn’t have to pay back Quezambra because it was actually the state of California that took the money, deducting it from her paycheck as part of its In-Home Supportive Services (IHSS) program and then giving it to the union. Staton reasoned that union wasn’t responsible for the state’s action and the state was not responsible for the union forging her signature.

Never mind that California was acting on the UDWA’s behalf as part of “memorandum of understanding”—a contract between the state and the union. The state had no reason to know it was giving Quezambra’s money to the UDWA based on forged documents, Staton ruled.

Did I mention that Quezambra is a single mom who participated in California’s IHSS program to help take care of her disabled daughter at her own home? She noticed the deductions when she started with IHSS in 2013. She never joined or supported UDWA and she doesn’t believe it represents her interests. She assumed the deductions were state law and there was nothing she could do about it.

It wasn’t until last year that Quezambra learned that she didn’t have to be a member. She sent a certified letter to the union in February 2019 opting out and demanded to see the union card that supposedly authorized them to make deductions.

UDWA conceded the following month that she had never joined. Or as the union put it, “We have reviewed your file and determined that you did not properly authorize the dues deductions.” The membership card that supposedly authorized the deductions was an obvious forgery.

Read the full article at The Orange County Register.