The board of a St. Louis fire district on Tuesday night said it would reverse its ban on on-duty employees wearing “Pink Heals” T-shirts for Breast Cancer Awareness Month, but only if the shirts were redesigned without a union logo and to clearly identify the employees.
The shirts that were banned show the logo of the firefighters’ union.
Robin Harris and Jane Cunningham, the two Monarch Fire Protection District board members who had imposed the ban on pink shirts, agreed to the change at a meeting attended by an angry crowd, most opposed to the board’s position. The two said that they supported breast cancer research and awareness.
“I am directing the chief to provide a method to me no later than tomorrow which will allow Monarch personnel to be immediately recognizable to the public,” Harris said.
Harris said firefighters should have obtained approval from the board before the shirts were designed and gone through a uniform committee as outlined in their labor contract.
“Any design change for on-duty wear must be board-approved or the floodgates would be opened allowing any pink shirt to be worn during October,” he said.
Pink is the customary color featured for Breast Cancer Awareness Month.
“It is unfortunate that such a stir was created when the firefighters union leadership attempted to besmirch the board,” Harris said.
Cunningham said she was most concerned that the firefighters are recognized as employees by the public when answering emergencies.
Employees, union leaders and most of the people attending the meeting criticized the board for taking what they called an anti-union stance and for playing politics with the fundraising effort. “Pink Heals” is a national campaign that was started by a firefighter to raise awareness about breast cancer and support women battling cancer.
Fire Capt. Andrew Stecko, shop steward for Local 2665, said that this was the fifth year the union was taking part in the month-long national campaign. The firefighters and paramedics wear the shirts and sell them to raise money for charities.
“This is a continued effort by the majority of the board against the union,” Stecko said.
Two people in the audience spoke in favor of the board.
One was Richard Gans, a former board member, who said the union was using this “to further its never-ending cause of trying to control the board of directors.”