The Supreme Court has decided to hear a case involving the question of whether agricultural employers have to allow union organizers onto their property.
The court agreed Nov. 13 to hear arguments sometime next year on a California law that gives representatives access to “non-work” areas. Cedar Point Nursery, which grows strawberries in Dorris, Calif., near the Oregon border, and Fowler Packing Co. in Fresno filed the petition, represented by the Pacific Legal Foundation.
The incident that prompted the court action came in October 2015 at the nursery when, “with bullhorns in hand, the activists entered the trim sheds, where hundreds of Cedar Point’s employees were delicately preparing fledgling strawberry plants for shipment,” the petition to the court said.
Opposing the petition, the state said the regulation only gives the union reps access for no more than three hours per day, and for no more than four 30-day periods each year. It also said the companies had not been able to “establish that the challenged regulation, which is rarely invoked and allows only limited access subject to numerous safeguards and restrictions, has caused them or other agricultural employers any actual economic harm or disruption.”
“The Constitution forbids government from requiring you to allow unwanted strangers onto your property. And union activists are no exception,” said Pacific Legal Foundation senior attorney Joshua Thompson, representing the companies.
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Both the district court and U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit ruled against the companies, however, which are arguing the presence of the union activists constituted a “permanent physical occupation” of the property and thus a “taking” under the Fifth Amendment.
The American Farm Bureau Federation filed a brief supporting the petition, in which it said the regulation allows labor organizers onto employers’ property “three times a day for 120 days each year.” If the Ninth Circuit decision is allowed to stand, AFBF said “agricultural employers — and property owners generally — can expect to see a dramatic increase in government-imposed easements authorizing third parties to engage in substantial ‘time-limited’ occupation and use of their properties.”
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