WASHINGTON — In the 25 years that U.S. Rubber Recycling in Colton, Calif., has been grinding up old tires to create new products, its sales have never ballooned so fast as during the COVID-19 pandemic.
As countless fitness centers closed, and millions of people began exercising at home, online demand for the company’s rubber mats and personal gym flooring soared.
But the company had a problem: finding enough workers to fill all the new orders.
That’s where U.S. Rubber’s long practice of hiring former felons paid off as people like Thomas Urioste came into the picture. In March, the 50-year-old Wrightwood, Calif., man was released from federal prison after serving nearly 10 years. He was living in a halfway house and, like many former prisoners, finding it hard to get a new start.