The American Rubber Recycling Company, Colton, California, has been grinding used tires for 25 years to make new products. Its sales have never grown as fast as during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Due to the closing of numerous fitness centers, and the increased demand for personal gym floors and rubber mats from the company, there has been a huge increase in online sales.
However, the company is having trouble finding enough workers to finish all of its orders.
US Rubber’s long-term strategy of hiring ex-felons is paying off. People like Thomas Urioste are a good example. The 50-year-old Man from Letterwood, California was released in March after spending nearly 10 years in federal prison. Like many ex-prisoners, he lives in a halfwayhouse and finds it difficult to get back on track.
When he found out that American Rubber was hiring he applied as quickly as possible. He was hired immediately, despite not being rejected as often as those with criminal records.
Urioste was stunned to discover how far he’d come six months later when his hourly wage rose to $17. They gave me the chance and gave me some responsibilities. “They let me run this ($200,000 machine”),” he stated last week. It feels good because they trust you.
As the economy expands and employers struggle for workers, ex-prisoners like Urioste find a silver lining amid the dark clouds of pandemic.
The US reported 10.9 million job opportunities this summer. This is equivalent to more than one job available for every person who is unemployed in the country.
More companies are now beginning to tap into this huge, but often neglected, workforce. About 20 million Americans have been convicted of felonies, mostly men, and many of them unemployed.
A few companies, such as the American Rubber Recycling Corporation have always emphasized hiring ex-criminals. California and over a dozen other states have been trying to eliminate discrimination against job applicants in recent years by prohibiting employers directly from questioning criminal records.
These laws can be evaded, however. Employers now often conduct background checks on criminal records and investigate gaps in applicants’ work experience. Once past problems are revealed, it is impossible to close the door.
Sean Bushway, an economist in Albany and criminologist at RAND Corporation said, “Of all those faced labor market challenges, one with a track is at the bottom of that queue.”
Things tend to improve during periods of low unemployment. The difference is that the national rate of unemployment is not at its lowest; it was 5.2% for August and 4.8% for September.