Supreme Court to Decide Union Access Rules for California Farms

Brian German Agri-Business, Regulation

The Supreme Court of the United States recently heard opening arguments about a case involving union access on California farms. At issue is California’s Agricultural Labor Relations Act that was enacted in 1975. The regulation allows union organizers to gather on a farmer’s property for three hours a day, 120 days a year to address employees. The case Cedar Point Nursery v. Hassid has potentially far-reaching implications depending on the outcome.

Union Access

The challenge to the union access regulation has been brought by Cedar Point Nursery and Fowler Packing Co. Claiming the regulation constituted an uncompensated easement, the two ag employers initially filed a lawsuit back in 2016. The case was dismissed by the California Eastern District court with the dismissal being upheld by the Ninth Circuit Court. However, in November 2020, the U.S. Supreme Court announced that it would hear the case. Pacific Legal Foundation is representing the two ag operations in the matter.

Some legal experts have questioned the tactic of approaching the case from a broad perspective. Justice Brett M. Kavanaugh brought up the case of National Labor Relations Board v. Babcock and Wilcox Co. during oral arguments. In 1956, the Supreme Court decided that union organizers were allowed on private property in certain instances. That ruling only allowed for a union presence when all other means of outreach and communication with employees have been exhausted.

Attorneys for the ag operations in the Cedar Point Nursery v. Hassid case are approaching the issue on a larger scale. The plaintiffs assert that requiring farming operations to allow access to the public is a violation of the Fifth Amendment. The argument centers around a property owner’s “right to exclude” individuals from entering the property. Labor groups have made the claim that ruling in favor of the ag operations could spell disaster for unions. Attorneys from Pacific Legal Foundation have noted that the case is not about union access specifically, but rather about the rights of all property owners.

The Supreme Court is expected to render a decision sometime before July.

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Brian German

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Ag News Director, AgNet West