Controversy erupts over Trump endorsement by Philly firefighters, paramedics union

PHILADELPHIA (WPVI) -- Controversy has erupted over the endorsement of President Donald Trump by the Philadelphia firefighters and paramedics' union, Local 22.

Club Valiants members say they are angry. The fraternal organization for Philadelphia's African-American and minority firefighters and paramedics met Thursday night to discuss major frustrations over the union's decision to endorse President Trump.

Members say the union's executive board recently asked their 4,000 some members to take a survey. But the survey was rather vague.

Jeremiah Laster, a 30-year member and paramedic said, "I think it was a very unwise and foolish move by the union. Only 554 people, according to their survey results, actually voted. That is not an overwhelming endorsement."

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Action News also spoke with Club Valiants president, Lisa Forrest. She says the timing of the endorsement is egregiously suspect. It came two days ago.

That's the same day she made history as the Philadelphia Fire Department's first African-American female battalion chief

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Philadelphia Fire Captain Lisa Forrest was promoted to Battalion Chief during a ceremony Tuesday morning.

"No matter how far we've come, they want to remind us of where we've been. They don't want to see us progress. The survey never talked about an endorsement. It was asking who are you voting for, which we feel it's none of the union's business," Forrest said.

Thursday we also spoke with the Spanish American Professional Firefighter Association. President Demetrio Oliveri says the union's decision further divides a department already in turmoil.

"There has always been racial tension in the Philadelphia Fire Department. But lately, it has grown more. I would like the president of Local 22 to explain himself," said Oliveri.

Retired Battalion Chief Joaquin Colon said, "There's no diversity in our executive board. Not one Latino, not one black, not one female. They're all white."

The union has not responded to Action News' request for comment.

Action News has learned that the president was set to make a campaign stop in Philadelphia this weekend, but the visit is now on hold after he and First Lady Melania Trump, tested positive for COVID-19.
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