Laid-off Workers: Lawmaker Stiffed Us

Some laid-off restaurant workers in Scranton are also crying foul. They say their former boss, State Representative Ken Smith was delinquent paying into a trust fund that provides them unemployment benefits.

Smith claims he will fix the problem, but some former workers said they are still owed paychecks, and an apology, because Smith’s failure to pay into the unemployment fund made it hard to get the benefits to which they were entitled.

For 41 years Jimmy Ware washed dishes at Smith’s Restaurant in south Scranton. When Smith’s abruptly shut down this summer a week after a sheriff’s sale Ware never got his last paycheck.

“It’s hard. I mean, I’m not working, and I’ve got nothing coming in, pay or nothing,” Ware said.

When his caretaker filed for unemployment benefits the state initially told Ware no.

Restaurant owner Ken Smith deducted money from unemployment insurance from workers paychecks but Smith did not pay that money to the state.

“He should know to pay it, and that was his fault not to do it, putting in to it,” Ware added.

“This is something that I will take care of. I don’t walk away from my commitments, and this will be satisfied,” Smith said. When pressed about when the situation would be rectified, Smith added, “Very shortly.”

Former workers said they need the money shortly. Most eked out a living, making a fraction of the $78,000 Smith gets paid as a state representative.

It took most workers a month to finally get unemployment benefits but they said Smith still has not paid them for their last few days of work.

“Our accountant is working on it right now, and it will get taken care of very shortly,” Smith added. “You know what, this is probably going to be something I am going to have to take out a personal loan and pay for many years to come.”

Jimmy Ware is now 59, wondering if he will ever work again, wondering if he will ever get paid for his last days on the job.

“It’s not very fair,” Ware added.

Some workers have been able to find other jobs.

As for the restaurant the property was taken over by the First National Community Bank of Dunmore at a July sheriff’s sale after the restaurant missed several loan payments to the bank.

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