Fifty Philadelphia firefighters and paramedics again protested their union local’s endorsement of President Trump for reelection Tuesday night. This time, it came as a union meeting set for the evening was unexpectedly cancelled by union brass.
International Association of Firefighters Local 22 officials recently endorsed Trump based on an email poll that was answered by just 12% of union members. The local leaders justified their actions saying the IAFF’s national chapter endorsed Joe Biden without polling local chapters. Local 22 brass cited “tremendous support” for Trump within their ranks, without officially polling all their members.
On Monday, Local 22 leaders originally restricted Tuesday’s scheduled meeting to 20 people, then canceled it, citing COVID-19 concerns. But some rank and file said they believe the meeting was canceled so the board would not have to explain the Trump endorsement.
Deputy Fire Chief Anthony Hudgins, who has been in the union 26 years, says the COVID excuse is bogus.
“COVID has been here. We all have our masks. We are first responders; we’re firefighters paramedics, EMTs. We are safe,” he said. “To use the COVID crisis to shut down a meeting is not right, and it’s absolutely a lie because we had a meeting last month. If it’s a big deal, why wasn’t it a big deal in September?”
Hudgins was among the dozens of members who called on Local 22 president Michael Bresnan to resign.
Members began demonstrating outside their union hall in Northern Liberties early Tuesday morning, and throughout the day, said they never received an explanation from Bresnan about the endorsement. Instead, he emailed other union officials to relay the cancellation to protesting members.
Fire service paramedic Daniel Fields protested outside early in the morning.
“[Bresnan] dipped out the back door, got in his car, and drove away, released an email blast to his executive board, and at the end of his letter said, ‘Someone tell the members out front the meeting is canceled,” Fields said. “It was kind of a cowardly move. He didn’t have the common decency to come and address us as we waited outside to have our voice heard. In my opinion, it didn’t matter to him that we were here at all.”
Fields and other Local 22 members circulated a petition generating support for a special meeting in the future, as the members not in favor of President Trump are pressuring union officials to rescind their endorsement.
Donna Garrett, a firefighter and 17-year member of Local 22, says it’s “disheartening” that because of party politics, many members of the union now don’t feel represented by it.
“It really caused a lot of division. It’s hurtful and divisive and we really didn’t need it in a small department and a department that really needs to stick together,” she said, “We really need them to retract it. This was one of the worst things they could’ve done.”
In an email to members, Local 22 officials said they’re considering a full membership survey regarding the Board’s decision to endorse Trump’s reelection.
Bresnan, the IAFF Local 22 union president, told WHYY he had “no comment at this time.”
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