Rob Thomas: My Story
I worked for that trucking company in the Piedmont of North Carolina for a year. My first six months were okay, because I would work four days a week just like I worked four days a week for public housing, but I would make two and a half times as much money as what I made working for public housing.
Well, these people were extremely racist. I was supposed to get a sign-on bonus. They did not give me my sign-on bonus and they told me it was because I was new and I told them they were lying. I went to truck driving school with three other individuals. Two of them were white and one of them was Hispanic and we all stayed in contact with each other. One of them was even a Trump supporter, Mike, avid Trump supporter, Trump 2020 everywhere, but we were all right. He never said anything racist and he actually got angry at the company for cheating me out of my money. I remember being on the phone with him. I'm on the road because we check in because he worked with them, too. He got a job through them just like I did. And he got his sign-on bonus. But I can't say to them, "Well, Mike got his sign on bonus." $5,000. And he's like, "I wouldn't take it." He was like, "I'd do this and I'd do that." And I'm like, "Mike, I can't do none of that." When I asked the woman about my sign on-bonus and showed any type of way that I didn't like what was happening, she pretty much got angry at me and told me that she was giving me an opportunity and that she didn't have to hire me. That I had a criminal background and I had no experience and that she was giving me the opportunity and so I had no leverage, so my plan was to find another job.
My ex-wife brought this job to my attention because she knew that I was stressed out. She knew I hated where I was at. My partner, because it was team driving, he was racist and I'd almost gotten in a fight with him in the truck and I hated it. The truck driving people were just so nasty and terrible, but I made good money doing it. I worked four days and make $1,200, so I didn't think there was any other job I could even get close, but I actually took a pay cut to take the job that I came into in the Racial Justice Coalition. So the application, she showed me the application and it said on it, "Previous justice involvement is not a disqualifying factor." And I'm like, "I'll never get this job. I've never worked in a professional job. I've never worked in a non-profit." I was like, "People like me don't get those jobs." That was in 2019. So I applied for the job, went through three interviews total, and got the job.
What's next is, in some ways, still waiting to be defined. I want to find my own financial security, for one, because honestly, I still feel like I'm in slavery. If I have to trade my time for resources in order to survive, it's still just a different version of slavery. If I had my own free time, I would do a whole lot of different things. I'd still do a version of work, but I would only do things that I wanted to do. I would do some things differently, a lot of things. I've got several business plans. I was actually approved for a $215,000 loan to start my dump truck business back in 2020, but then I turned down Mountain BizWorks because I knew that I wasn't going to have 20 hours a week to put into it because I was putting 60, 70 hours a week into the RJC. I could probably be rich already, but rich isn't what I'm after. I want financial security so that I can then attack social justice from a different vantage point and not have to worry about surviving financially while oing it. So maybe implementing that, a couple of other businesses that I have, and even that business is created around social justice. Within that plan we would also take fifty, sixty thousand dollars a year and put it back in communities by getting people who were a few months away from the age of being able to get CDLs and just paying them $25 an hour just to ride around in a dumptruck and see how easy it is to make $25 to $35, $40 an hour being a dumptruck driver. It's so easy to show that in marginalized communities, and I was also going to create a program where any employee who wanted to learn how to open up their own dumptruck business, I would show them how to create business plans and teach them financial literacy and all the things and be a gateway into Mountain BizWorks.