Striking Oil Workers Protest Catsimatidis for Underpaying Essential Workers
Teamsters and striking oil workers rallied outside of billionaire John Catsimatidis’ Manhattan offices today in protest of the low wages paid to essential workers at Catsimatidis’ United Metro Energy. Workers have been on strike since April 19th.
“We were essential enough to report to work through the pandemic, but not essential enough for a raise and better health and retirement benefits,” said Andre Soleyn, a Terminal Operator at United Metro Energy. “We are on strike for a better future for our families.”
“As a fellow Greek-American, I know John Catsimatidis will know what I mean when I say he should show these workers his philotimo,” said Demos P. Demopoulos, Secretary-Treasurer of Teamsters Local 553. “There is no direct English translation, but at its core philotimo is our duty to do good in the world, and it is central to the moral code of Greek people. John Catsimatidis should show his philotimo to the essential workers who labored every day through the pandemic, and before, to make his company into what it is today.”
United Metro Energy workers have provided gasoline, diesel, and heating oil to New York throughout the pandemic, but are paid much less than workers at other city oil companies and receive poor medical and retirement benefits.
“My hourly wage is half what other companies pay for the same job in New York,” said John Thompson, a service technician at United Metro Energy. “We took care of New York through the pandemic, but we need to be able to take care of our families too.”
UMEC terminal workers, fleet mechanics, and service technicians voted to join Teamsters Local 553 in February 2019, but the company has dragged out negotiations for a first contract. In retaliation for the strike, the company began firing workers, telling them that they are being permanently replaced.
“I’m a single father and I’m on strike because I need to be able to provide for my two children,” said Ramesh Hardowar, a service technician at United Metro Energy. “This is dangerous work and we need good health care and a decent retirement for our families.”
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.