I interviewed with Channel 12 today over a tough decision to go fair share - meaning my union dues will no longer fund the union's social or political causes. Union President Craig Ford was also interviewed making rather disparaging comments about my faith, my conservative ideology, and for "wrapping myself up in the United States flag and abusing the memory of New York's fallen firefighters."
Ford also said I used the tragedy of 9-11 to promote my own agenda, but this exactly what he did when he voted to retract an agreement he had with Gorniak to help with the parade. He chose - along with four others - to distill the self-sacrifice and heroism of 9-11 firefighters into a political statement to snub firefighters that finance their own social and political causes.
Ford also says that they've been chastised and villainized because they simply opted not to endorse, promote, or support Gorniak's float. But it's really not that simple. It wasn't like Gorniak asked them for help and they simply decided not to use union resources for his pet project. You see, Ford had already agreed to help Gorniak and went as far to suggest flying in a New York Firefighter to march side by side with Racine's best. Gorniak never asked for union resources nor did he request flight accommodations for New York Firefighters. He simply wanted Racine Firefighters to know they could participate in the parade.
When Ford learned that Gorniak didn't pay full union dues - no doubt by Oak Creek's Union President Steve Wilding - he backed off completely. In fact, he led Gorniak to believe that he would go to bat for him when presenting the idea to the Executive Board, yet he voted against Gorniak when the rubber met the road. Mark Polzin was the one dissenting vote to help Gorniak with the parade.
And finally, I did not go to the media to air my grievances with my local. They came to me as news got out about snubbing an Oak Creek firefighter. The recent interview I did with Channel 12 was the result of a department-wide email Ford had sent that was meant to pin the "PR nightmare" Ford had caused. What Ford needs to do is take ownership of the political decision he made to intimidate and punish another firefighter.
Ford says that the firefighters that died in 9-11 were all under a union contract, and that he would be embarrassed to support the initiatives of fair share firefighters. However, fair share firefighters operate under a union contract and their union dues pay for their representation. What's the problem then? How can Ford explain shunning Gorniak when he's faithfully paid his union dues for a longer time than Ford's been a firefighter?
Ultimately, anyone who knows Matt Gorniak knows that his intentions to promote the fire service is beyond reproach. It's unfortunate that Ford flushed an excellent PR opportunity down the toilet and was instead forced to defend a prejudiced decision to put politics ahead of doing the right thing.