Sunday, October 18, 2009

Caveat Lectores on American Flag Display

This is a tough one. Or is it?

A Pennsylvania firefighter is being disciplined because he refused to remove an American flag from the outside surface of a locker he used for personal items. Notice I did not say “his” locker.

Apparently, this saga started when someone made a complaint about something objectionable displayed on a locker. The employer overreacted and told everyone to remove everything from the outside of the lockers. The employee refused to remove the flag, and we now have an employee disciplined because of patriotic respect for “Old Glory.”

No one will win this battle. Somebody needs to blink so we can move on with what is important. Thirty-five years involvement with the fire service tells me there is more to this story. I will not speculate about what is between the lines. Go to for the story.

The firefighter must recognize that rules are rules he must follow unless doing so will endanger a life. He could have removed the flag and made a complaint that could have served him well, but he may have not gotten his name in the news.

The employer must recognize such reactionary management only makes management look stupid in the eyes of the employees and now the public. No one cared about what was on the lockers until someone complained about something racially offensive. Rather than deal with the real problem, the employer decided to start enforcing a rule that had been apparently violated for a long time. Unfortunately, this is typical behavior from far too many fire managers.

Why not have the department buy American flag decals for all the lockers and require they be displayed? Remember, the lockers are the property of the American people. I will bet I can get somebody to donate the decals. I have seen IAFF emblems with an American flag on them. The union should donate the decals. If there are any rats or scabs in the department, they may complain because they have to look at a union endorsement. Oh well, you cannot please everyone.

And oh yes, have a nice day.


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