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In this June 27, 2020, file photo, a lifeguard keeps watch over a packed beach in Huntington Beach, Calif.

(The Center Square) – A group of Southern California lifeguards submitted a petition to the U.S. Supreme Court Wednesday, requesting that Justices hear their case challenging a rule enforced by the state and union officials at the California Statewide Law Enforcement Association.

Orange County lifeguard Jonathan Savas and 20 other lifeguards submitted a petition for writ of certiorari to the Supreme Court on Wednesday, requesting that their case challenging CSLEA’s “maintenance of membership” requirement be heard.

The lifeguards claim that the union’s requirement forced them to remain union members and pay dues “against their will.” A “maintenance of membership” requirement stipulates that employees who are union members must remain members until the agreement forged between a labor union and employer expires.

The lifeguards are also suing state officials for their role in enforcing the requirement, claiming the rule violates their First Amendment rights.

Savas and the others claim that the union’s stipulation violates their rights under a 2018 Supreme Court decision in Janus v. the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees. In that decision, the Supreme Court ruled that public sector unions cannot require non-union member employees to pay dues to cover the costs of non-political union activities, according to Ballotpedia. The ruling also specified that it violates the First Amendment to require public sector workers to pay union dues as a condition of employment.

Savas and the plaintiffs say they sent messages to resign from the union and end due authorizations in September 2019. Still, union officials allegedly denied the requests, according to the National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation. The lifeguards claim they were told they could either remain full members until 2023 or be fired.

The CSLEA did not immediately respond to multiple requests for comment from The Center Square regarding the petition. The CSLEA has roughly 7,000 members in 110 job classifications.

The case was heard in the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals earlier this year, where a three-judge panel ruled that the “maintenance of management” requirement did not violate the First Amendment. As previously reported by The Center Square, the Ninth Circuit Court panel ruled that the lifeguards “contractually consented to the maintenance of membership requirement.”

“The Ninth Circuit’s giving a pass to so-called ‘maintenance of membership’ restrictions effectively gives union officials complete control over when public employees can exercise their rights to end union membership and cut off union dues deductions,” National Right to Work Foundation President Mark Mix said in a statement. “That erases not only the protections against all forced dues payments provided by Janus, but even older rulings that forbade union officials from forcing full union membership and payment for union political activities on public workers.”

Staff attorneys from the National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation represented the plaintiff in Janus v. AFSCME and are representing the lifeguards in this present case for free.

Staff Reporter

Madison Hirneisen is a staff reporter covering California for The Center Square. Madison has experience covering both local and national news. She currently resides in Southern California.