July 11, 2010
The story of the Club Jama dancers is all too familiar. For decades there has been a pattern of trafficking young Filipina and other Asian women to be sexually exploited in CNMI clubs, bars and massage parlors.
In December 2007 Club Jama was raided after one of the dancers called the Philippine Consulate to report false imprisonment, unpaid overtime wages and illegal deductions.
Ten of the former Club Jama dancers have sued Chanpac, Inc. known as Club Jama, owners "Jack" Ernest Strange and Thelma Strange who currently live in Tennessee, and DOES I-X. The complaint filed in February 2009 alleges that the unnamed Defendants in the complaint (DOES I-X) are alter egos, joint employers, and/or integrated enterprises of Defendants. The defendants were sued for failing to pay the employees their full compensation and for breach of contract.
The women's declarations reveal that they were recruited from the Philippine's by Mrs. Stange's neice, Margie, and later brought to locations in the Philippines to be interviewed by the Strange couple where they were forced to strip naked as part of the "audition" to checks for "scars or tattoos." The women were told that they would not dance naked in the CNMI, but upon their arrival they learned differently.
Declarations reveal that the women were told that they would dance with "a sash and undergarments."
Another declaration stated, "She said the job would be for a dancer, but not all the way, we would only do variety show."
Yet one declaration revealed:
On the third night of training we were brought to the club to observe. I was shocked. It was not the kind of job I was expecting to do. I thought I applied for a variety dancer job like the ones you see on noon times shows in the Philippines. I was not able to sleep that night because I need to go to work the next day and that I had to do strip tease in front of the customers.The Strange couple enforced odd penalties on the dancers that meant that they could not meet quotas: "$5.00 if you removed your clothing late; if you forgot to close the dressing room door -$5.00; if you forgot to clap your hands after every performance -$5.00; if you make noise walking to the barracks -$5.00; if you go to the club with wet hair -$5.00; not wearing red lipstick -$5.00."
The declarations revealed that some of the women were underage, and were told to process "fake" birth certificates. One plaintiff was instructed to use a fake name on her passport, birth certificate, police clearance and medical certificate. The women were told to enter the CNMI as tourists, not as dancers.
The declarations state the typical schemes used on club girls including seizure of passports, deduction from wages for travel, recruitment and other bogus fees, quotas for lady's drinks, restrictions to barracks, and other ill-treatment.
When the women arrived in the CNMI they were video-taped naked and told to say that "they liked to dance naked," liked to do their job" and "no one forced them to do their job." Later, the Stranges warned the dancers that if they went to authorities or complained then the video tapes would be sent to their families in the Philippines.
The Plaintiff's Opposition to the Defendants Motion for Summary Judgment reveals a sickening story of how the Stranges controlled every activity and move of the employees from what time they woke, slept, ate and exercised. They also controlled where they could go and one declaration stated that even throwing out garbage required permission from a waitress to accompany a dancer and unlock the door.
The women were forced to do aerobics every day to maintain their weight, and one dancer had her food intake monitored and was told to drink "slimming tea" because she was "fat."
The defendants claimed that their business did not meet the dollar volume requirement of the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) of $500,000 per year. The defendant's claimed $499,841 in revenue for 2005 and $472,586 in revenue for 2006. However, the plaintiffs' attorney pointed out that the employers keep all of the waitresses tips and contend that not all revenue and tips were represented on the Business Gross Tax Return.
The women were human trafficking victims who applied for and were awarded U.S. T-visas. They state that they are owed tens of thousands of dollars in back pay.