Brooklyn Representatives Rally with Striking Teamsters
Essential Workers Strike at United Metro Energy Reaches 113 Days
State Senators Julia Salazar and Jabari Brisport, Assemblymember Emily Gallagher, and striking workers rallied outside of the United Metro Energy oil terminal today amid a 113 day strike.
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 the company’s owner, billionaire John Catsimatidis, refused to agree to a fair union contract despite two years of negotiations.
“United Metro Energy’s exploitation of essential workers is shameful.” State Senator Jabari Brisport said. “Many of these workers went out every day in the height of the pandemic to keep our city running. Yet UMEC continues to deny them a contract with a reasonable wage for their labor — instead, extra profits are going to its billionaire owner, John Catsimatidis.”
“The working people at United Metro Energy make half of what their union comrades make just so John Catsimatidis can make another quick buck,” State Senator Julia Salazar said. “The union busting tactics of this company and it’s billionaire owner are shameful. We’re here today to say enough is enough and it’s time to give these brave working people the fair contract they are owed.”
“For John Catsimatidis this strike is about ego but for the working people at United Energy Metro, this is about dignity,” Assembly Member Emily Gallagher said. “I’m here today because essential workers deserve more than praise; they deserve a fair union contract, good pay, and benefits they can be proud of. These working men and women are owed this and so much more, but John Catsimatidis has instead decided to threaten their healthcare unless they work for subpar wages. United Energy Metro can end this strike today; come to the table and negotiate in good faith.”
Teamsters Local 553 has filed charges at the National Labor Relations Board against United Metro Energy Corp., owned by billionaire John Catsimatidis, alleging that the company illegally fired, threatened, and retaliated against striking essential workers at the company’s Brooklyn oil terminal.
“A year ago, essential workers were called heroes. Now that they want a raise, they are called replaceable,” Demos Demopoulos, Secretary-Treasurer of Teamsters Local 553, said. “John Catsimatidis is mistreating the workers who got us through the pandemic. These workers have the support of their elected representatives, the local community, and 120,000 Teamsters across New York City. We are united and we are going to win this strike.”
“All I want is to be able to provide for my daughters and my coworkers want the same for their families,” Andre Soleyn, an oil terminal operator at United Metro Energy, said. “We are on strike because we refuse to be paid far less than other workers who do the same job in New York.”
“We are making so much money for this company and its billionaire owner, why can’t they pay us fairly?” Ivan Areizaga, an oil terminal operator at United Metro Energy, said. “I’m striking for a better future for my family.”
“NYC-DSA is once again proud to stand in solidarity with working people here in New York City,” Co-Chair of NYC-DSA Sumathy Kumar said. “The working people at United Energy Metro are facing exploitation and illegal retaliation for exercising their right to unionize. As socialists, it is our highest priority to organize with working people for fair pay, good benefits, and a union they can be proud of. We did it once at Hunts Point and we’re proud to be doing it once more in Brooklyn.”
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.