Enslaved ‘Worker’ in SC Restaurant, Suffered Beatings, Long Hours & Wages Below Minimum

John Christopher Smith

*John Christopher Smith, a 37-year-old African American man said to be mentally challenged, has retained a legal team to help him get justice against the restaurant he has worked at since he was 12 years old.

He washed dishes and bused tables at the Conway, South Carolina location.

According to Smith, the owner and manager at J&J restaurant, Ernest J. Edwards and Bobby Paul Edwards respectively, beat him with frying pans and hit him with belts throughout his nearly two decades of employment. And in an attempt to muffle his cries for help, the trauma would occur inside a walk-in freezer.

But in spite of this, co-workers heard his cries, but said nothing out of fear.

According to his attorneys, the establishment forced him to work 18-hour shifts six days a week, and 11-hour-shifts on Sunday — sometimes with no breaks; other times with minimal ones. After all of this, Smith’s annual salary came to $2,842.00.

Smith lived in a cockroach-infested apartment owned by the brothers that his attorneys called “subhuman.”

Needless to say, his attorneys, Mullins McLeod and David Aylor, are going to have a field day in court.

Bobby Paul Edwards was the manager at J&J Cafeteria. In 2010, he is said to have started beating and ridiculing Smith

According to a report in The Root, the brothers have been charged with 14 counts that include false imprisonment, discrimination and unfair labor practices.

Bobby Edwards, the 50-year-old brother of Ernest, has been in jail since Nov. 19, 2014, when he was arrested in a separate case on charges of second-degree assault and battery. He is said to have abused Smith using hot tongs covered in grease, butcher knives and belt buckles.

It wasn’t until October 2014 that one of the waitresses in the restaurant gathered the courage to speak out. She confided in her mother-in-law, Geneane Caines, who in turn called the police, the Conway NAACP, and the Department of Social Services.

Scars on Smith’s neck from the tong burns gave credence to his story.

According to a report by The Post & Courier:

The civil suit in U.S. District Court lists 14 accusations against J&J Cafeteria in Conway, owner Ernest J. Edwards and manager Bobby Paul Edwards, who are brothers. It also names the restaurant’s registered corporation, Half Moon Foods Inc. In the statement Monday, lawyers Mullins McLeod and David Aylor called Smith’s ordeal troubling and outrageous.

 “This lawsuit cannot change the past,” Aylor added, “but hopefully it will bring about positive change in the future.”

Smith talked to WMBF News about his ordeal.

“I want him to go to prison, and I want to be there when he go,” Smith said. It’s been a little more than four months since Smith left the restaurant, and according to Caines, he’s doing much better. “He’s a total different person now; he holds his head up high, he’s very happy, very outgoing, he don’t even act the same,” said Caines.

Justice must be served on behalf of this man. Stories such as this cut to the deep, and shows us how hateful people can be. These men behave like savages and took their own self-hate and rage out on an innocent man they knew would say nothing.

I know Mr. Smith is grateful to the restaurant worker who finally spoke up. But I have to wonder, had the worker remained silent, what would the outcome be? Would John Christopher Smith have ever spoken up?


Sources: News One and The Root

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