MEDFORD (CBS) – He didn’t get a pink slip, but a Medford firefighter was suspended for three days over a red t-shirt. It’s an issue that would not seem to generate controversy, but the fire chief says he directly disobeyed an order.
It started three years ago when the firefighters wanted to join a national campaign called Red Shirt Fridays, to show support for U.S. troops serving overseas. When they started wearing the t-shirts on Fridays, fire chief Frank Giliberti objected to the style saying it wasn’t a proper uniform.
He proposed red polo shirts, much like the blue shirts the firefighters wear as part of their uniform each day.
WBZ-TV’s Beth Germano reports
The issue simmered with little progress until July when a firefighter, an Iraqi war veteran, apparently took a stand and wore the forbidden t-shirt facing suspension for three days.
“I think he knew by making a stand and standing his ground, this would open up people’s eyes,” said Medford firefighter Paul Doyon. Medford mayor Michael McGlynn, who spoke to the firefighter, said “he knows it’s wrong to disobey the order.At the same time he knows how strongly he feels about it. He was there fighting,” he said.
The fire chief says he has the red polo shirts, but they need the department logos, and will be ready in a month or so. He says the issue is more than just about a t-shirt, but about a code of conduct. Still, the suspension had many in the department seeing red, and firefighters are now anxious to get on with the campaign.
“If we can do that, wearing a red shirt on Fridays, it would be a plus for the department,” said firefighter Stephen Pinette. The firefighter, who was unavailable for comment, is now back on the job.