Teamsters Denounce Billionaire John Catsimatidis for Firing Striking Workers
Essential workers have been on strike for 151 days for fair pay and benefits
Teamsters Local 553 is expanding charges at the National Labor Relations Board against United Metro Energy Corp., owned by billionaire John Catsimatidis, after the company fired another striking worker last week. Catsimatidis has permanently replaced eight union activists since a strike began at the company’s Brooklyn oil terminal in April. The union originally filed charges at the NLRB in May alleging that the company was targeting union activists for permanent replacement and is now asking the federal agency to add the latest firing to its ongoing investigation.
“These immigrant workers went on strike because they wanted equal pay with others in their industry and John Catsimatidis fired them in retaliation,” said Demos Demopoulos, Secretary-Treasurer of Teamsters Local 553. “Catsimatidis should do what is right — rehire these workers and agree to a fair union contract so they can provide for their families.”
“I’ve been on strike for 151 days trying to make this a job I can live on,” said James Anderson, who has worked at United Metro Energy Corp. since 2018. “To then get a letter from my employer saying that they are permanently replacing me instead of giving me a fair wage, it breaks my heart. But me and my coworkers are standing strong to get the union contract we deserve.”
Local elected officials have supported the striking workers and demanded that Catsimatidis agree to a fair contract.
“For 151 days, essential workers in my district have been on strike for basic dignity on the job,” said Assemblymember Emily Gallagher. “Now billionaire owner John Catsimatidis has fired yet another worker for protected union activity. Greenpoint doesn’t tolerate bullies. I stand with these brave Teamsters and call on Catsimatidis to finally do the right thing: negotiate a fair contract. It’s time.”
The essential workers, who supplied New York with heating oil, diesel, and gasoline through the pandemic, are paid as much as 50% less than workers doing the same job at other companies, and receive inferior health and retirement benefits. They went on strike on April 19 after Catsimatidis refused to agree to a fair union contract despite two years of negotiations.
The United Metro Energy oil terminal distributes heating oil to New York City schools, hospitals, and the MTA, as well as fuel to area gas stations.