So apparently there is a fear that pink shirts look too much like normal fire fighter uniforms.
Or at least that’s the argument of Connie Cochran, Stockton’s Public Information Officer. She had the dubious task of explaining away Stockton City Manager Bob Deis’s decision to bar fire fighters from wearing pink shirts every day this week.
The pink shirts were printed by the International Association of Fire Fighters in support of Susan G. Komen for The Cure. The idea was originally that the shirts be worn everyday for a week, by both on- and off-duty fire fighters. (See examples of other fire fighters and their “Go Pink” gear.
When off-duty, the members of IAFF Local 456 would raise money by bagging groceries, passing the boot, or (as originally planned) selling the pink shirts. But the City Manager had none of that.
Although Stockton Fire Chief Ronald Hittle had agreed to the activities, I guess someone forgot to check with the Bob Deis.
On Friday, Deis issued a directive via email informing the fire fighters that they would only be allowed to wear pink one day – that day – and if they sold the shirts, they could be subject to disciplinary action.
When I contacted Cochran for more information, I was told the issue was with the shirts themselves. Because they had the same design as the fire fighters’ on-duty t-shirt, there was confusion in the community.
Some residents were concerned they were paying these fire fighters to raise money and bag groceries, not fight fires.
Ok. I’ll give them that one. But I see fire fighters passing boots all the time. Often times, they are wearing t-shirts that, as your average citizen, I think look like on-duty clothes. How should I know the difference?
Well, if I looked at the insignia on these pink-colored, Susan G Komen for the Cure shirts, I’d see that there’s a pink ribbon in the center of the screen-printed badge, and not the word Stockton
Funny, I would have thought it would have been the PINK SHIRT that would lead me to believe these people were off-duty.
And I’ll tell you something else. If I were in an emergency situation and someone came barreling into my house or was using the jaws-of-life on my car to save me, I wouldn’t care if they were wearing pink and purple polka-dotted tube tops with orange and blue (go Gators) stripes on underneath. I’d just be happy to be saved.
The city was also concerned about selling shirts that said Stockton Fire Department on the back. This could lead to confusion down the road with people imitating fire fighters.
Well, again, I would imagine the PINK SHIRT would be a give away, but color me crazy. But the Cochran told me that the shirts should have been printed with “Fire Fighter Local 456” on the back to avoid confusion.
Perhaps if an 83 year-old retiree were wearing one, I would ask him or her to climb a tree to save a cat. But then again, if the words “Fire Fighter Local 456” were printed on the back, I’d think better of it. Then again, the words “fire fighter” would still be on there. Perhaps a euphemism would be a better route here. I’d ask for the shirts to be printed with the words “Fire Extinguishers Extraordinaire Local 456” on the back.
The International Association of Fire Fighters claims this was a political move to keep them from looking good to the public during a labor negotiation; Cochran made no claim about labor negotiations at all.
But I say they’re both in the wrong here.
I commend the fire fighters for trying to raise money and awareness for such a worthy cause, but if they attribute this move by the City Manager as a way to keep them from improving their image during labor negotiations, then that makes me think that maybe that’s what they were trying to do.
And if the City actually did prevent the fundraisers for political purposes, then shame on them as well.
Some things ought to be above petty political squabbling or positioning. Perhaps instead of striking dead this fundraiser on the first day, a better solution could have been negotiated by both sides.
But in the end of this one, I think everyone comes out with a bit of a black eye.
All I know is that next year, I’ll attend Sacramento’s Susan G. Komen Race For The Cure… I’d run it too, but I’m not allowed. But I’ll stand at the finish line and cheer for every survivor who crosses the finish line, and I’ll cheer just as loudly for those people who are running for someone who can’t.