Stop doing business with ‘union-busting’ NYC energy firm – New York Daily News

City Council Speaker Adrienne Adams called on Mayor Adams’ administration Monday to stop doing business with an energy company owned by Republican megadonor John Catsimatidis over concerns that the GOP bigwig is engaged in “union-busting” as part of a labor battle with his workforce.

Oil terminal workers at the Brooklyn-based company, United Metro Energy, have been on strike since April 2021 over allegations that they’ve been shortchanged on salary and benefits — and Speaker Adams (D-Queens) told the Daily News that the city should not pay the Catsimatidis sign another penny until the dispute is resolved.

“As the daughter of union parents, including my proud Teamster father, I know the importance of standing up for workers’ rights and honoring the picket line. The members of Teamsters Local 553 must be treated with dignity and respect, not union-busting tactics by their employer,” the speaker said, referencing the union representing the striking workers.

“I stand in solidarity with our workers and join the call for the city to cease doing business with United Metro Energy until our workers are provided a fair contract.”

The current $52 million city contract that United Metro benefits from was awarded by former Mayor Bill de Blasio’s administration in June 2021 to supply municipal agencies with fuel and heating oil. As of this week, the city has fulfilled at least $40 million of that contract, according to a Teamster official.

Asked about the Council speaker’s demand, a City Hall spokesman said there’s no plan for the mayor to pull the plug on the Catsimatidis contract and suggested his hands are tied since the deal was made during the previous administration.

“While the city cannot severe an active contract without evidence of a violation, we remain committed to working with our partners in government to ensure all companies with whom the city does business are in compliance with the law,” said the spokesman, Jonah Allon.

Speaker Adams is the highest-ranking politician to urge the mayor to cut city government ties with Catsimatidis. She joins a growing chorus of lawmakers and activists skeptical about the business practices of the billionaire Republican, who is friendly with Mayor Adams and hosted several fundraisers for his campaign last year.

In addition to mounting support for the striking workers, Brooklyn Borough President Antonio Reynoso told The News on Monday that he recently sent a letter to the Citywide Administrative Services Department raising concern about allegations that United Metro is also stiffing unionized drivers delivering heating oil to city public schools by paying them below legally required wages.

The DCAS, which oversees the contract with United Metro, should launch an investigation into the matter, Reynoso said. If the agency fails to act, Reynoso said he may invoke a little-known power afforded borough presidents to force the city to hold a hearing on the United Metro contract.

“They’re being allowed to get away with not complying and until we do something about that, that’s going to continue,” Reynoso said of United Metro.

John Catsimatidis and Mayor Eric Adams

Emily Pankow, the general counsel for United Metro Energy, said canceling the company’s contracts would “ultimately hurt the union members … whose work will thus be drastically reduced if not altogether eliminated.”

Pankow also said the company “believes it is in compliance” with prevailing wage laws and noted that the comptroller’s office is still investigating allegations of violations “and no determination has yet been made.”

Catsimatidis, who has donated hundreds of thousands of dollars to former President Donald Trump and other members of both major political parties, is personally acquainted with Adams, and was spotted dining with him in Manhattan just days after he won the Democratic mayoral primary last summer.

In an interview on NY1 this past December, Catsimatidis praised Adams as a “commonsense” Democrat who has the potential to be “the best major comeback of the century.”

The striking United Metro workers allege Catsimatidis paid them wages that were as much as 50% lower than at other energy companies in the city. They have also accused the company of illegally retaliating against them for the strike action.

“When we went on strike, John Catsimatidis took away our health insurance and my son couldn’t get his insulin,” Ivan Areizaga, a striking terminal operator, said Monday. “This is not the kind of company that New York City should be sending public dollars to.”

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