Melbourne firefighters told not to wear city-purchased pink shirts



MELBOURNE, Fla. - October is breast cancer awareness month, and a number of Melbourne firefighters were planning to show their support for the issue and cancer awareness.

Two days ago they got a memo not to wear their pink polo shirts on the job even though they've already been purchased.

The chief said firefighters are in the position of protecting lives and property and shouldn't be promoting any particular cause.

But union representative Roger Vankramer said firefighters were told weeks ago they could purchase the polos out of their uniform allowances.

"These pink polos, about $2,500 worth of them are just for show now. That's because Melbourne fire rescue employees have been told not to wear them on the job," Vankramer said.

Vankramer said they had an agreement with the city and the shirts were purchased at the expense of the city.

Eyewitness News obtained a copy of the memo saying the shirts will not be approved to be worn as part of the uniform. It states, "uniforms will reflect who we are and what we do and they will not be used to advocate for causes."

"We thought we had it taken care of and we showed support to all cancers with the shirt the way it was designed," Vankramer said.

Melbourne's fire rescue chief said union and the department are separate entities.

He also said cancer awareness is an important issue and so are many others.

He added firefighters have uniforms for a reason.

"I'd say it's a crushing blow to the morale of the city who thought they would be able to support as our other brothers and sisters are around the state, and now that's going to be possible," Vankramer said.

Nearby Palm Bay Fire Rescue will be wearing pink T-shirts during the month of October on Friday.