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Farmers Win Access Case       06/23 14:43

   California Farmers Win Property Rights Case Over Union Organizer Access

   The Supreme Court ruling overturns a regulation in California law that 
granted the United Farm Workers union access to a farm property for three hours 
a day for up to 120 days a year.

Chris Clayton
DTN Ag Policy Editor

   California farmers do not have to allow union organizers on their property 
unless state officials provide compensation for the temporary "physical taking" 
of property, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled Wednesday.

   The 6-3 ruling overturns a regulation in California law that granted the 
United Farm Workers union access to a farm property for three hours a day for 
up to 120 days a year. The majority opinion written by Chief Justice John 
Roberts stated, "The access regulation grants labor organizations a right to 
invade the growers' property. It therefore constitutes a per se physical 
taking."

   The case is Cedar Point Nursery v Hassid. It began in 2015 when Cedar Point 
Nursery, a strawberry farm in northern California with about 400 season 
employees and 100 full-time workers, charged that union organizers were showing 
up at the farm early in the morning, using bullhorns and disturbing the farm 
operations. Fowler Packing Co., a grower and shipper of grapes and other fruits 
in Fresno, Calif., employees up to 2,500 field worker sand 500 in its packing 
facility. Fowler also had refused to let union organizers on its property, 
leading to the union to initially file an unfair labor charge against Fowler 
Packing.

   Both Cedar Point and Fowler sued in federal court against the California 
Agricultural Labor Relations Board, and its members, including the board chair, 
Victoria Hassid to challenge the state regulation that goes back to 1975.

   The decision reversed a ruling by the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeal and 
remanded the case back to the district court to implement the Supreme Court 
decision.

   California officials had argued the regulation only allowed limited and 
intermittent access for a narrow purpose. Roberts cited the language of the 
rule that grans labor unions a "right to take access" of a grower's property to 
solicit union members. Roberts stated that allowing union organizers on the 
farm for up to three hours a day, for 120 days "to invade the growers' 
premises" takes away the rights of the growers to exclude the union organizers 
from their property.

   The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals had dismissed the physical taking 
argument because the access is temporary. Roberts wrote, "That position is 
unsupportable as a matter of precedent and common sense." Roberts cited that 
the High Court has held in the past that a taking of property can be permanent 
or temporary. Precedents have established that "compensation is mandated when a 
leasehold is taken and the government occupies property for its own purposes, 
even though that use is temporary."

   In their dissent, Justices Stephen Breyer, Elena Kagan and Sonia Sotomayor 
stated that by concluding that access for union organizers is a taking, then 
that could translate into every government inspection or entrance onto property 
as a physical taking. The California provision is a regulation and not an 
appropriation, the three dissenters wrote.

   Roberts dismissed the dissent, stating that permits and other regulatory 
tools would give government officials access to property when needed.

   Justice Brett Kavanaugh also wrote a separate concurrent opinion agreeing 
with the majority.

   The Pacific Legal Foundation, which represents landowners in property-rights 
cases, had represented the two growers in the case. The group said Wednesday's 
ruling affirmed that the government cannot force people to allow third parties 
onto their property.

   "Today's ruling is a huge victory for property rights," said Pacific Legal 
Foundation senior attorney Joshua Thompson, who argued the case before the 
Supreme Court. "Today's decision affirms that one of the most fundamental 
aspects of property is the right to decide who can and can't access your 
property. Pacific Legal Foundation is proud to have represented Cedar Point 
Nursery and Fowler Packing Company at the Supreme Court."

   United Farm Workers did not immediately issue a comment on the ruling 
Wednesday.

   TO see more on the Supreme Court decision, Cedar Point Nursery v Hassid, go 
to: https://www.supremecourt.gov/opinions/20pdf/20-107_ihdj.pdf

   Chris Clayton can be reached at Chris.Clayton@dtn.com

   Follow him on Twitter @ChrisClaytonDTN




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