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"Gangnam Style" lifeguards: cashiers trained to take over

September 21, 2012 |  6:38 pm

 El Monte officials denied that they were assigning untrained city cashiers to protect swimmers at the municipal aquatic center after 14 lifeguards and their supervisor were fired for making a video spoof that went viral on the Internet.

During a public hearing this week in which supporters urged city leaders to rehire the guards, speakers said the city had been forced to use cashiers to take over lifeguard duties.

But city spokesman Robert Alaniz later said that the cashiers had previously worked as water safety aides and had been “co-instructing” swim classes at the pool since April.

Alaniz's comments followed a raucous Tuesday night council meeting in which hundreds of people turned out to support the lifeguards, who were terminated for making an “unauthorized” video on city property and with city uniforms--namely their fire-engine red swimsuits.

He said the cashiers now qualify as swim instructors themselves after enrolling in a water safety instruction course certified by the American Red Cross. The minimum class requirement is 30 hours, but the employees put in 32 hours, Alaniz said.

"They do some cashier work," Alaniz noted. "But they do other things too, and they're qualified to be in the water."

The offending video, a spoof of the enormous YouTube sensation "Gangnam Style, has itself been viewed more than 1.5 million times on YouTube.

More than 12,000 people from across the globe have signed on as supporters on the lifeguards’ Facebook page. Even South Korean rapper Psy, whose song inspired the lifeguards, came to their defense.

The City Council did not offer to give the lifeguards their jobs back but instead ordered a review of El Monte’s social media policy.


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-- Anh Do

Twitter: @newsterrier