Message from IAFF 2nd District Vice President Mark Woolbright:
Brothers and Sisters of the IAFF 2nd District,
This past week has seen several events unfold at a national and local level that could potentially impact our lives . Between the announcement that Hillary Clinton will not face criminal charges, the very recent police killings of Philando Castile and Alton Sterling, and the unspeakable tragedy that unfolded in Dallas resulting in the loss of at least five of our brother law enforcement officers…. and just yesterday the police officer being ambushed and shot in St. Louis County who remains in critical condition. The national news and in particular social media have exploded with people from all walks of life expressing very strong opinions on these situations.
I ask that you keep the fallen, their families, and their co-worker in your thoughts and prayers, and I encourage you to see that these events represent a very real reason for us as first responders to remind ourselves that we are the government, and to people who feel oppressed and disenfranchised by the government, we represent the forces they believe are treating them unfairly. Across the country, Fire and EMS workers have increasingly become victims of violence, and events such as those that occurred this week only heighten the potential for that to occur.
Many of our members have been expressing concerns and opinions on social media and in the firehouses/ambulance bases amongst our sisters and brothers. We all have a right to do that. It’s called freedom of speech – and it’s a right that every single one of us takes seriously. As we move forward, to make sure we all stay strong for each other and continue to display our professionalism, we want you to keep some things in mind.
Remember that the IAFF is a family. Everyone we work with and everyone in our respective communities – the people who pay our salaries and who we put our lives on the line to protect – are also a part of our extended family.
This broader family is made up of people of many races, colors, creeds, national origins, genders, sexual orientations, income levels and religions.
And just as important as our right to free speech, every single one of us has the right to a safe and respectful workplace, and to be treated with respect.
We also have a responsibility to be respectful to others at all times. It is crucial that, as leaders and as trusted protectors of our community, we make our display of respect universal. Nothing less is acceptable.
Every single one of us has a role in this.
Before you speak; before you talk to others in the community or to someone on the side during a call; before you post a comment or share a link on Facebook, or Twitter, or Instagram; think about the message you are sending (intentional or not). Because the photos, the cartoons and news articles with the political opinions, the info graphics you send around, are a reflection on not only you but on all of those with whom you serve.
And as we all know too well, those who work against us, those who don’t like what we stand for, it takes just one mistake, one slip up, for them to grab hold and make a big deal out of something, no matter how small, unfair or out of context it may be. Yes, we are held at a higher standard.
It’s a tough spot to be in, but it’s what every single one of us chose willingly when we signed up for this job.
Because of the work all of you do every day, we have a very high standing within our communities. Overwhelmingly, the public holds us in high regard.
To continue to be effective, to continue to hold the trust, to continue to be able to work to improve our lives and safety on the job, we need to maintain that standing.
At the end of the day, we all share one thing in common – to ensure the safety of the public (and each other) we so proudly serve while doing the job we love. That’s what unites us. That’s what makes us strong. We all work side-by-side, everyday in life and death situations. And we all have a role in keeping our union and our ranks strong. Please stay alert, familiar with your surroundings and lets continue to have each other’s back.