Supreme Court rules against labor union access to private farms


The United States Supreme Court issued a ruling last month effectively overturning a California regulation allowing farm labor unions to access private property. [ABC News]

California’s regulation, which had been in place for 45 years, gave labor organizers a right to access private farm property up to three hours a day, 120 days a year, in order to meet with workers when they are off the clock. The Supreme Court decision against the rule will make it more difficult for unions to organize migrant workers, though the state of California says it is considering potential workarounds.

Two farm owners challenged the state regulation, arguing it was archaic and a violation of the Takings Clause of the Fifth Amendment. Union officials argued the regulation was essential for educating and communicating with a highly transient workforce. 

In a 6-3 ruling, the Supreme Court majority sided with the farm owners.

“Government-authorized invasions of property — whether by plane, boat, cable or beachcomber — are physical takings requiring just compensation,” Chief Justice John Roberts wrote in the majority opinion. “Accordingly, the growers’ complaint states a claim for an uncompensated taking in violation of the Fifth and Fourteenth Amendments.”

The Chief Justice also stated that “the right to exclude” is a fundamental element of property rights.

Supporters of the California regulation argued that deeming it a taking would have sweeping implications for other government policies, including health and safety inspections and anti-discrimination rules. In the dissenting opinion, Justice Stephen Breyer wrote that a temporary invasion of a landowner’s property only amounts to a taking if it goes “too far” and that the court majority’s conclusion could make ordinary forms of regulation unusually complex or impractical.

Cedar Point Nursery owner Mike Fahner applauded the Supreme Court decision, saying its protects individuals’ freedom to decide who is and who is not allowed on their own property. United Farm Workers, however, blasted the court, saying it is compounding racism and inequality in the labor system.

Victoria Hassid, chair of the California Labor Relations Board, said her office is now considering possible workarounds that could allow union organizers to continue accessing private farm property.