Supreme Court to hear case between unions and farm businesses

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“We had strangers on bull horns walking our halls in our sheds,” Fahner said during a recent press call organized by his lawyers. “It was surreal, scary, a little scary and wrong.”

Now he is take his case to the Supreme Court. He opposes a 1975 California law that allows union organizers to access farm employers’ property for limited periods to talk to workers about their union membership.

While no other state has a similar law, the dispute pits agribusinesses against large unions and raises questions about when the government can allow access to private property without compensation.

California’s Access to Unions Act

The California Agricultural Labor Relations Act of 1975 allows union organizers to enter business ownership three times a day for 120 days a year. Organizers are entitled to a one-hour visit to talk to workers during the break.

Although unions do not need to obtain employer consent before entering property, they must file written notice of their intention with the state Agricultural Labor Relations Board.

California defended the law, saying it was put in place in 1975 because farm workers are generally inaccessible to union organizers due to the fact that they are sometimes migratory, from crop to crop, alive. in temporary accommodation and lacking in modern technology and English. Language skills.

Fahner’s Cedar Point Nursery is represented by the conservative Pacific Legal Foundation, which points to the Fifth Amendment which in part states that private property cannot be taken by the government for public use “without fair compensation.”

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They argue that California regulations which allow union members to enter property against the nursery’s will amounts to the “taking” of the property and the nursery should be compensated. In other words, they equate visits – which give unions access to private property – with a permanent physical invasion of property. They say it doesn’t matter that entry is only allowed for a limited period of time. What matters to them is that the right of access is permanent.

“We are a foundation dedicated to private property rights, we think this matter is important because if the government can take your property – without compensation – simply by putting a time limit on entry, then your property is gone. private, ”said Joshua P. Thompson, the foundation’s director of legal talent, in an interview.

Cedar Point Nursery employs approximately 100 full-time workers and approximately 400 seasonal workers. A second company behind the challenge is the Fowler Packing Company which ships grapes and citrus fruits and is headquartered in Fresno.

What the courts have said

The lower courts have ruled against the nursery, holding that the right of access to the property does not constitute a “take” under the law because the access is not permanent. The 9th U.S. Court of Appeals noted that the regulations did not allow random members of the public to unpredictably walk through their property 24 hours a day, 365 days a year.

In general, the courts have allowed the government to impose “use restrictions” on private property without compensation, such as those associated with zoning laws. But when the government allows a structure or a person to be on the property permanently, it must compensate the owner.

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If producers were to win, argued California Assistant Attorney General Joshua Patashnik, it “would jeopardize a set of state and federal policies that allow limited access to private property for a variety of purposes, including health and safety inspections. security, welfare visits, utility repairs. , and hunting and fishing. “

It is a position supported by the International Union of Service Employees, whose lawyers told the court the law was needed to “balance the interest in educating farm workers about the benefits of self-organization with the property interests farm employers have in their open fields.”

The farm businesses have won backing from Trump’s Justice Department, which filed a brief with the court ahead of the election, arguing that California law causes concern because it equates to permanent access to land, not “sporadic and temporary invasions”.

But Elizabeth Prelogar, the Acting Solicitor General of Biden’s Justice Department, filed a letter in court recently informing judges that the government has changed its position in the case.

Prelogar stressed that the California law does not raise constitutional concerns because it does not allow permanent occupation of the property. “Rather, authorized access is temporary and limited in nature.”


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