Firefighter Pink Shirt Debate - Mid-South News, Weather, Traffic and Sports | FOX13

Firefighter Pink Shirt Debate

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MELBOURNE, Florida -

First, Florida's Melbourne Fire Department ordered professional-looking pink polo shirts in honor of Breast Cancer Awareness Month. Then, they were ordered by their chief not to wear them. Now the firemen are looking for an answer as to why they can't support the cause.

They're pink, they're bright, and they were purchased to make a statement.

"The NFL does it, Little League kids do it. I mean everyone wears pink during the month of October," says Roger Vankramer, the firefighter union president, which is why the Melbourne Fire Department wanted to get on board.

Firefighter union president Roger Vankramer says that last year, the union bought T-shirts to show their support for Breast Cancer Awareness Month. And they bought them at no cost to the city. However, city leaders decided that they wanted firefighters to wear a more professional show of support this year, something with a collar. Therefore, Fire Chief Paul Forsberg says he approved the $2,500 purchase of pink Polos.

"The two ribbons were to denote all cancers and breast cancer simultaneously," Vankramer describes the design.

Now enter a memo. A few days ago, the fire chief sent out a memo that the pink golf shirts will not be approved to be worn as part of the uniform. Uniforms will not be used to advocate for causes, the memo said. Firefighters were stunned.

"Kind of baffled...kind of hurt our morale trying to understand why. When we first started this, the union purchased the T-shirts at no cost to the city. And then a directive came out that we have to wear these shirts. We have to wear them the entire month, which is fine. But now all of a sudden, the ones they picked and made us order aren't good enough. Why?" Aaron Starkey, a Melbourne Firefighter says.

FOX News spoke to Fire Chief Forsberg on the phone. He didn't want to go on camera but said, "Earlier today, we got new information that contradicts earlier information we received. We're looking at the memo and plan to modify or even rescind it[.] We plan to address the issue at the next labor management meeting September 30th."

"Our thought as a local is that he's in charge of the city, he makes and dictates the rule, and he certainly didn't come to us with this rule or rule change and ask if we thought it would be in the best interest of the city. So we don't think we should have to negotiate it back to the way it should be," Vankramer says.

Starkey agrees, "We have one of our own, Shannon, who's battling her second bout of cancer right now and it's stage four, so this is pretty personal to us."

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