Negative reactions to the presence of Russian brands in the U.S. are growing
Outraged by the invasion of Ukraine, the leaders of New Jersey’s largest city have lashed out at one of the closest symbols they could find to Russia – gas stations operating under the Russian Lukoil brand.
The Newark City Council voted unanimously to ask authorities to suspend the licenses of the service stations, citing the fact that Lukoil is based in Moscow. In doing so, however, they may have done more damage to Americans than to the Russian company, since the stations themselves are owned by local businessmen, not Russians, and are operated by mostly New Jersey residents. The gasoline sold at the gas stations comes from the local Phillips-66 refinery.
The campaign against the gas stations is one example of the collateral damage of the negative reaction to Russia, as Americans seek to show their support for Ukraine by boycotting the products and goods of companies they consider Russian.
Roger Verma, a New Jersey resident who immigrated from India 45 years ago, has owned a franchise at a Lukoil gas station in Newark since 2005. Now, with the start of the boycott of Russian firms, he could go bankrupt and his 16 employees could be out of work.
“Let me be clear that I support Ukraine and fully support the Russian sanctions,” Verma said Wednesday in front of Newark City Hall. – “But I’m confused and confused as to how people in positions like this, without a single fact on their hands and without a full understanding of how things are done, can introduce and change laws and change people’s lives as they please.
Americans in some places have been known to throw away Smirnoff-branded vodka, not realizing that the drink belongs to an English company and that the bottles sold in the United States are made in Illinois.
Charlie Tgibedes, owner of the Box Seats restaurant and sports bar in North Attleboro, Massachusetts, told the Sun Chronicle that he no longer orders vodka from Russian companies, but is questioning the advisability of giving up what he already has.
On social media, people are calling for a boycott of Lukoil gas stations, which operate in 11 states, mostly in the northeastern United States. Newark officials said the crackdown on Lukoil stations is an act of moral support, even if they are locally owned.
“All of us are horrified by the footage we are seeing” of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, City Councilman Anibal Ramos said Wednesday. “Today, Newark stands in solidarity with a number of countries around the world that support democracy and accept sanctions against Russian Federation.”
When will the Newark stations’ licenses be revoked, and whether the city administration will be able to overturn the decision. Ramos, who introduced the resolution, said he expects it to be implemented anyway. Under a typical Lukoil franchise agreement, the company acts as the station’s landlord. The gas station pays rent to the company, as well as paying taxes and utilities, and commits to buying a certain amount of fuel each month.
Sal Risalvato, executive director of New Jersey Gasoline, called calls for gas station closures “nothing more than political theater.”
“All station owners condemn what Russia is doing in Ukraine, but they don’t deserve to lose their business and their investment because of Russia’s bad behavior,” he said in a statement.
Many Western energy producers, including Exxon, BP and Shell, have announced their withdrawal from the Russian market, while others have so far postponed a decision on the matter. TotalEnergies has said it will stay in Russia, but will no longer invest in the Russian economy. Japan’s Toyota has halted production at its Russian plants, and IKEA, the world’s largest furniture retailer, has closed its stores but said it would pay its workers three months’ liquidated damages.
“Western companies probably haven’t lost so much money, and at such a rapid pace, because of geopolitics since the Shah was overthrown in Iran,” said Charlie Robertson, chief economist at Renaissance Capital, referring to the 1979 Islamic Revolution that led to the exodus of Western businesses from Iran.