Dear Work For The Jerk Or Not;
The easiest and the smartest answer is no. You should not go back to work for the jerk.
You said yourself that you don’t need the money. Thus money is not your deciding factor. What should be your deciding factors?
1. How much time with this job take? Is there something better that you could be doing with that time? Could you be doing something better with that time that will make money? Possibly more money than you would make working for the jerk.
When you choose to use your time to do one thing you are ruling out using that time for an infinite number of other possible uses.
2. How long until it backfires and the jerk does screw you over? You may have avoided getting screwed over by the jerk in the past but this sounds like a time bomb waiting to go off. There’s nothing special about you that make you immune to mistreatment. At some point he’s likely to screw you over as well.
I’ll assume the first time you worked for him you didn’t know he was a jerk. You went in blind. This time you know better. If you knowingly walk into a lions den you can’t be surprised if you get eaten.
3. Working for a jerk isn’t bad only for you. It’s bad for everyone. Working for jerks keeps jerks in business. It gives them the opportunity to abuse other employees, customers and business owners. You are perpetuating the jerks power by serving him in the capacity of an employee.
The sooner a jerk goes out of business the sooner the world is free of one more shitty workplace. You owe it to your fellow humans to move this process along as quickly as possible.
Overall this sounds like a losing proposition for you.
However let’s explore some alternative possibilities.
If the company contacted you and asked you to come back this would seem to indicate that you have some skill set, knowledge or ability they need. Since the person who runs this company is a jerk they are probably lacking what you can provide because the jerk has run off everybody else who could do the job. That tells me this company is desperate. Desperate companies can be exploited.
How much money were you making before they cut your pay? Tell them you’ll be happy to come back. For your original rate plus and additional 50% of your original rate. If the jerk is so cheap that he actually cut your pay previously the odds he’s going to pay you more than you originally made are essentially zero.
If they are desperate enough however he might say yes.
You just got a pay raise. Good job.
Now that you are making more money than you did before stroll back into the door of this establishment as if you own the place. Because you do own the place. The fact that they have said yes to your demands means the jerk is excessively desperate for whatever you can bring. Do the job they’re paying you to do. Do it to the best of your ability. Do it at your pace. Don’t do anything you don’t want to do.
Because what are they going to do? Fire you?
You may have been told that being fired from a job will go down on your permanent record.
You may have been told that getting fired will prevent you from getting another job. Sometimes true but most likely not. I know many people who got fired and subsequently got jobs. I’ve been fired and I’ve gotten jobs.
Also consider that if the jerk does fire you that may be a good thing instead of a resume stain. You mentioned that the jerk owes money to people around town for work they did for him in the past. If this is common knowledge I hardly think that being fired by the jerk is going to tarnish your reputation.