Press Releases

Essential Workers on Strike in Brooklyn

Teamsters File Charges Against Billionaire Catsimatidis’ Oil Company at National Labor Board

Union charges United Metro Energy with multiple violations of labor law amid 44-day strike

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.

The charges, filed on May 27th, outline a pattern of anti-union actions against workers that are illegal under the National Labor Relations Act. The charges allege that the company:

  • Improperly hired replacement workers to permanently replace striking workers, starting with union activists, in order to discourage union membership.

  • Threatened workers with the termination of their health coverage for striking or honoring the picket line.

  • Threatened to subcontract out the work performed by union workers.

  • Made statements that displayed an illegal anti-union animus.

  • Illegally bargained in bad faith.

Workers have been on strike since April 19th.

“These essential workers, most of them immigrants and breadwinners for their families, worked through the pandemic and they deserve better than illegal intimidation. They deserve fair pay and benefits,” said Demos P. Demopoulos, Secretary-Treasurer of Teamsters Local 553. “We demand that the government hold the company accountable for violating these workers’ rights.”

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.

“I went on strike for a better future for my family, and on the first day of the strike I got a letter saying I was fired,” said Andre Soleyn, a Terminal Operator at United Metro Energy. “It’s no mystery why they fired me first, because I was the leader of the union organizing campaign. It turns out that we were essential enough to report to work through the pandemic, but not essential enough to keep our jobs when we asked for a raise.”

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.

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.