Editor's note: If your fire department is wearing pink, updating the color scheme on apparatus or showing support for Breast Cancer Awareness Month, please send us your photos and information to: email@example.com. We'll be compiling a gallery to highlight everyone's efforts.
Oct. 01--CHESTERFIELD --Firefighters here will raise money to benefit breast cancer again this month, but they won't be doing it wearing pink.
T-shirts in the traditional color worn during October -- breast cancer awareness month -- were banned this year by board members in the Monarch Fire Protection District.
Two of the district's three board members say the shirts aren't professional and could lead to confusion among the public.
"Firefighters are selling these around the community to businesses and whatever," said Board Member Jane Cunningham. "If they get called to a home, how is the person to ID them as a Monarch emergency firefighter as opposed to a member of the public?"
Firefighters say they've worn the shirts for the past four years, and the board's decision has to do with politics, not any safety concerns.
An election in April changed the makeup of the board, and has led to chilly relations between the board and firefighters, who are members of the International Association of Firefighters, Local 2665.
"We seem to be going down a road that is pretty unproductive," said Fire Capt. Andy Stecko, shop steward for the Monarch firefighters. "I can understand a board and a union fighting over something like benefits, but this is something completely different."
Board member Steve Swyers said he opposes the T-shirt ban. "I think this decision will distinguish Monarch in a poor way, and I do not support it," he said in a statement.
Dozens of fire districts in the St. Louis metro area, like Monarch, participate in the Pink Heals Movement, a national campaign started by an Arizona firefighter to generate awareness and support for women battling cancer.
In recent years, Monarch firefighters and paramedics have raised more than $6,000 and have donated it to local charities, including Bridging the Gap Emergency Breast Cancer Fund, Camp Rainbow and No Woman Left Behind.
The money is raised through the sale of the pink T-shirts to the public. The shirts, which cost $20, are also purchased by the firefighters, who have worn them on duty during October to raise awareness of the project.
This year, firefighters plan to donate proceeds to the Life and Hope Fund at St. Luke's Hospital. The fund assists patients with cancer or malignant blood disorders who are in need of medical supplies and services not covered by insurance.
Cunningham said she and Board President Robin Harris were not given any information about the fund-raiser, and they first found out about the plan to wear the T-shirts after a board meeting on Sept. 24.
"The chief kind of mentioned something in an off-hand way," she said. "But we were never given a proper presentation about it; that's the way you handle things in a businesslike manner."
Cunningham said she is concerned firefighters in pink T-shirts won't have the same professional appearance they do in uniforms that were paid for by the taxpayers.
Stecko said that uniform choices for firefighters include T-shirts. When firefighters go on a call, they wear protective turn out gear, he said, so there is no question about who they are.
He said firefighters believe board members balked at the fact that the T-shirts carry the union logo. Last month, board members voted to remove union labels from all of the firetrucks.
In addition, Stecko said board members questioned whether the fund-raiser discriminated against men.
Cunningham said she didn't realize the pink shirts had the logo, and she thinks questioning who benefits from a district-wide fund-raiser is a legitimate issue.
"We're being judged for something we never were even asked about, but we'd be happy to hear a presentation on it and get answers to some of these concerns," she said.