NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — The New York City firefighter’s union is engaged in a war over words with the FDNY.
The issue is 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 says 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.
The group’s president, Paul Mannix, told Young he is sure his group is the real target of the directive.
“We’re supposed to be grown-ups. We’re supposed to deal with opposing opinions. There is a big push about bringing diversity, but I guess diversity of thought isn’t included,” Mannix told Young.
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.
The union’s newly hired Constitutional attorney also says the new directive won’t fly.
“Did somebody miss that day at law school? Were they sick? You just can’t do that. So stop,” said Attorney Ron Kuby.
When 1010 WINS reached out to the FDNY for comment, the department would only pass along the new directive.
What do you make of the FDNY directive? Share your thoughts in the comments section…