Saturday, September 1, 2012

Freedom of Speech

I'm not sure if many of you know, but I am a firefighter in a major Pennsylvania city. I cannot tell you which city because the fire department that employs me has recently come out with a social media policy that prohibits the members of the fire department from mentioning in any way, shape, or form that we are employees of said fire department. No acknowledging what we do, who we work for, no pictures, no pride,  nothing. No social media whatsoever while working.

Also, when in an off duty status, as a private citizen, we are not permitted to speak out on matters of concern that involve the City & finally we are not permitted to use our cell phones while on duty unless it's an emergency.

What say you, Ray? This is crazy! It sure is my friends and followers!

I can understand the first part. If my employer doesn't want it Tweeted or Facebooked that I work for them then that is their right as my employer and if I wish to remain employed in this big city in Pennsylvania, in the greatest job in the world, then I have to follow that rule.

My issues are with the second and third parts of the social media policy.

I think that the city is being a bit heavy handed and totalitarian when they say that as a private citizen, in an off duty status, not representing myself as a firefighter, that I cannot voice my opinion on matters of concern involving the city where I reside and work. Basically, I cannot say that I don't feel the police are doing a good job in crime prevention because they are so shorthanded or you may suffer a serious medical emergency in the city and no medic units will be available because my city's EMS system is severely understaffed or a small house fire may become a tragedy because the Mayor closed the fire company closest to you home or the City has money to fund a HUGE holiday weekend concert where they won't recoup one red cent but have no money to fund contracts for three out of four municipal unions. You get the picture.

And the asinine cell phone rule. ??? I can agree with this when on a fire scene, medical response and such or when training but to say I cannot call the one I love and say goodnight or I love you just boggles my mind. The city doesn't allow us to use the City phone system for personal calls so in effect, communication with family and friends is cut off while on duty.

I love my job, don't get me wrong but this is flat out czarish and heavy handed. It's silencing my right to freedom of speech which is guaranteed to me in the First Amendment to the US Constitution, covered in The Bill Of Rights. I see this social media policy as a small stepping stone for the City. If this goes unchallenged, the next thing that will happen is that employees who work in my city won't be able to voice their opinions in any type of forum at all! No public protests, no letters to the editor, nothing.

I'm not taking this lying down. I'm taking a stand and I will be heard. I have been in contact with the local branch of the ACLU and I intend to sue my employer for violating my right to free speech under the First Amendment. I'm not looking for anything other than restoration of my right to be heard.

I believe that all Americans have a right to be heard and that whether positive or negative, silencing that right is just plain wrong. This is going to be a long and difficult road & my employer may make life difficult for me but I refuse to back down.

Win, lose or draw, in the end at least I will be able to say that I stood up for what I believed in and said "I am."

Thanks for listening. It felt good to get this off of my chest. Take care of yourselves & I promise tomorrow's posting will be of a much lighter nature.


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