Maggie: Look familiar? These fourteen lifeguards did something hundreds of other teens have done worldwide: make their own version of the wildly popular Gangnam Style video. Posted on YouTube two months ago by the South Korean rapper known as PSY, this mega-hit video has been viewed more than 200 million times. But the video made by the lifeguards, who are all employed by the city of El Monte, California, got them all fired.
Lifeguard: I was in shock, because I didn’t really think that it would escalate to termination.
Maggie: Juliet Gilek is one of the 14 fired lifeguards. And she says their video never meant to cause problems.
Juliet Gilek: I loved what I did. I loved teaching the kids. I loved making sure everybody was safe. So I would have never wanted to hurt the pool in any way. This was just a fun thing to capture our memories with.
Maggie: Many of the lifeguards are college students who relied on their jobs for income.
Lifeguard: To be blunt, this was my only job and my only source of income in terms of paying for books and contributing to my schooling.
Maggie: The city of El Monte said it wasn’t the content of the video that was the problem. Instead it was “a clear unauthorized use of city resources and property.”
While Gangnam Style might be the YouTube video of the moment, it certainly isn’t the first to go viral. And making spoofs of these famous videos is just as popular. Remember all the “Call Me Maybe” spin-offs from earlier this year?
El Monte resident: I think maybe some of this is just a generational divide, that maybe there’s people on the El Monte City Council who don’t fully appreciate that this is just the way people communicate today.
Maggie: The fired lifeguards hoped to bridge that generational divide when they met with the El Monte City Council earlier this week.
Lifeguard: Never did I complain. Never did I ask for a raise. My boss knew that I was dedicated.
City Council member: Management practices, the nature and extent of the punishment, social media policy – there are quite a few things that we have to look into.
Maggie: The city may be standing firm, but much of the online community supports the lifeguards. A “Bring back the 14 El Monte Lifeguards” page on Facebook already has more than 15,000 likes.
And even PSY – the man behind the original Gangnam Style – has spoken out for the lifeguards.
PSY: I’m begging you, do not fire, please.
Maggie: With arguments lined up on both sides, some say the situation is a modern day generation gap.
Maggie Rulli, Channel One News.