A symphony of angry plastic and jolly laughter- a sea of cowboy hats, beards, and doo rags- greeted employees of the Lifetime Network as they attempted to make their way into their New York City headquarters yesterday morning. A blanket union of bucket drummers, mall Santas and horse whisperers, formed in 2009 after an episode of the NBC television show “30 Rock” parodied a union of the same composition, barricaded the entrance to the network in protest of the recent episode of “Project Runway All-Stars.”
In the final episode designers presented mini-collections in their own runway shows complete with music and lighting. Designer Emilio Sosa kicked off his young, hip collection with a bucket drummer in silhouette behind a screen at the end of his runway. Unfortunately for Sosa, he, Project Runway execs and the Lifetime Network neglected to contact their local union for bucket talent, and instead used Joel “Chuy” Rodriguez, a Lifetime Network executive’s nephew, aspiring bucket drummer and former contestant on the ABC show “Bachelor Pad.”
Rodriguez claimed to have no knowledge of the union, and his uncle, Lifetime executive Don Rodriguez scoffed at the concept of a blanket union representing so many organizations. “What kind of ludicrous madness is going on out there?” queried the elder Rodriguez. “This is nonsense, and I will not acknowledge it.” Rodriguez may have a change of heart after his bosses chimed in about the situation in front of Lifetime’s 45th Street headquarters later in the afternoon. The Walt Disney Company, a partial owner of the Lifetime Network, condemned the network’s oversight in not utilizing union talent citing their exclusive contracts with the blanket union for both bucket drummers and horse whisperers at all of their properties around the world.
“We have worked hard to establish relationships with the union to meet Disney’s needs and provide fair wages to all,” said spokesman Karl Ventura. “The egregious disregard for the bucket drummer’s union that has occurred at the Lifetime Network is a dark cloud over us all.”
As for the younger Rodriguez’s proclaimed “ignorance” of the existence of the union, union president Roy Bell begged to differ. “Mr. Rodriguez was expelled from the union in 2011 for crossing picket lines, drumming without the union’s consent and even attempting to undercut our brothers in the mall Santa industry by approaching their supervisors with lower rates. He was thrown out of Gimble’s just last year! He is a first rate scab.”
Although Sosa and the Project Runway executives claimed ignorance of the union’s grievances regarding the runway show, they are likely to be the target of protestors for some time. Union member Gaard Reeves said he hoped the incident will raise awareness of his union’s efforts. “We’re just trying to bring a living wage to hard-working, honest, law-abiding bucket drummers, mall Santas and horse whisperers. We don’t think it’s too much to ask that huge companies like Lifetime respect our efforts. NBC and its pages are on our side. I think Lifetime should seriously reconsider their position.”