Former Garment Workers' Checks Go Uncollected

January 6, 2010

Former garment workers have only until January 15, 2010 to pick up checks from the Garment Trust Fund at the law office of attorney Timothy Bellas. Since the second week in December, the office has been distributing the checks to the former workers.

The Saipan Tribune reported that 59 checks for $350 each to be issued to former garment workers remain uncollected from the garment trust fund. According to the trust fund chair, attorney Timothy Bellas, 250 checks were issued and the uncollected amount represents a total of $20,650. The money represents some of the back wages owed to the cheated former employees.

Attorney Bellas was quoted as saying that he informed the CNMI Department of Labor and the Federal Ombudsman Office that any money from uncollected checks will be returned to the trust. If the former workers have left the CNMI, it looks like they will be out of luck. The directive from Mr. Bellas said that any one who is to receive a check must personally pick it up. From a Garment Trust Fund press release that appeared in the Saipan Tribunes "Community Briefs":
The Garment Workers Trust Fund has received approval from the U.S. District Court to distribute a one-time donation of $350 to each of the 215 workers summated to the Fund by the CNMI Department of Labor and the Federal Ombudsman's Office.

The Funds will be available for distribution beginning Dec. 14, 2009, at 9am at the law office of Timothy H. Bellas, located in Garapan at the corner of Cactus Street and Botones Avenue.
All workers who are named on the list must appear personally and present acceptable picture identification in order to receive their check. Checks will not be disbursed to anyone other than the named recipient on the list provided by the above named government agencies.
The Federal Ombudsman, Pamela Brown reports that former garment workers have recently been showing up at the Ombudsman's Office to register for benefits from the class action fund. That registration has ended. Former garment workers should not be going to the ombudsman office, but should report to the law office of Timothy H. Bellas, located in Garapan at the corner of Cactus Street and Botones Avenue to pick up their checks.

The leftover money from the trust will be distributed to charities. At least $500,000 is left over. From the Saipan Tribune:
The CNMI Labor and the Office of the Federal Ombudsman submitted the 215 applications on behalf of former garment workers with unpaid wages.

“When the 15th comes around, I'm going to put the money back into the trust fund. I'll divide the money among the charitable institutions for the same proportion,” Bellas said.

If the 59 have already left the CNMI, Bellas said they are not going to reissue the checks in somebody else's name.

“We don't have the time, the energy, or the personnel to investigate those issues to see if it's true or not true or who's going to cash it,” he said.

“So basically if they want somebody to pick it up we'll give the check to somebody, but the check will still be made out to the name of the original worker,” Bellas said.

With respect to trust's planned donation to charitable institutions, Bellas said he is setting a meeting with his co-trustees to distribute the rest of the money.

The trust has over $500,000 in leftover money from the $20-million settlement in the class action against the garment industry.

The trust has received applications from 18 charitable institutions in the CNMI. It said it will not choose one charitable institution, but select those qualified and then divvy up the money among them.

“Basically we're looking at somewhere between now and 15 to have tentative distribution and then I'm just going to take the remaining money that will come back from these checks,” Bellas said.
Read the letter to the editor by attorney Timonthy Bellas outlining how the Garment Trust Fund distributed funds as approved by the federal district court.


Anonymous said...

i just wondering why they gonna donate it to charities while there are so many garment workers are still here in island who need financial support. Like my complain before way back 2007 until now i did'nt recieve any explaination why i do'nt recieve cheque amount of $800.00 Only amount of 275 the first and last cheque i'ved recievd. For your information i'm from sako corp. since 1995 all my co-workers recieved the said amount ($800.00) only me dont recieve it

you can email me for more info.