Friday, January 27, 2012
UFA Plans to Sue Over New FDNY Directive as a Violation Of Free Speech
The UFA has come out in opposition to the new directive that bans “opinion pieces” in firehouses.
CBS News reported the initial issue was over a department directive, put out last month, which banned firefighters from displaying any material presenting opinions or viewpoints in their engine of ladder company quarters.
The union ordered its members to ignore the order, saying it was a violation of the First Amendment.
The FDNY eventually reworked the directive so it only banned the posting of opinions on firehouse walls, but Uniformed Firefighters Association President Steve Cassidy has responded that that’s not nearly good enough.
“There are new bans that are in effect that you can’t put an American flag up, you can’t have a picture of a deceased firefighter who died in the line of duty, you can’t put up a sign that says ‘Go Giants,’ this is ridiculous,” Cassidy told 1010 WINS on Thursday.
The revised directive, under the headline “Use of Bulletin Boards in Quarters,” says the following:
“Bulletin boards in facilities shall be used only for official Department business or important information relating to approved Departmental organizations. In addition to applicable EEO restrictions, material presenting opinions or viewpoints is not permitted anywhere in quarters. It does not matter whether such opinions or views concern Department matters or non-Department matters. NO articles/material may be posted from any publications, internet or other sources.”
Sources told CBS 2's Lou Young that the flap is really related to an organization inside the department called “Merit Matters,” which objects to some of the techniques being used to racially diversify the department.
To the UFA’s credit, Steve Cassidy told 1010 WINS that in his opinion, it’s pretty clear that the policy violates the right of free speech. He says the ban – even with the new wording — is unacceptable and they plan to sue.
“We told them they violated our rights, they made a change. That change probably even more egregiously, violates our First Amendment rights. So the question is, how can you negotiate with someone who doesn’t understand the First Amendment or who believes instinctively that they can tell firefighters what to do on any level at any point in time,” Cassidy said.