The Supreme Court
sided with California
agriculture businesses on Wednesday in their challenge to a state regulation that allows unions access to farm property in order to organize workers. As a result of the ruling, California will have to modify or abandon the regulation, which was put in place in 1975 as a result of labor leader Cesar Chavez's efforts.
The justices ruled 6-3 in favor of agriculture businesses, which is yet another potential setback for labor unions
as a result of a high court decision.
“The access regulation amounts to simple appropriation of private property,” Chief Justice John Roberts
wrote in a letter to the court’s conservative members.
A regulation was at issue, which allowed unions access to farms and other agricultural businesses for up to three hours per day, 120 days per year, in order to organize workers. Businesses are supposed to be notified before organizers arrive, and organizers are supposed to come during nonwork times such as lunch and before and after work.
The businesses that brought the case to the court argued that California's regulation was not only unconstitutional, but also outdated and unnecessary in light of the fact that unions can now reach workers in a variety of ways, including smartphone and radio.
The access regulation is unique to California, but unions and others argued that ruling in favor of the businesses could jeopardize regulations allowing the government to access private property to conduct workplace health
and safety inspections, among other things.
The ruling is the court's latest blow to unions under Roberts. In 2018, the court's conservative majority overturned a 41-year-old pro-union decision that had allowed states
to require public employees to pay some fees to unions that represent them, even if the workers did not choose to join.
Still, it's unclear how much the court's decision will change things.
California had stated that union organizers use the regulation “sparingly” — only five times in the 2019-2020 fiscal year and 24 times in 2018-2019. Nonetheless, the United
Farmworkers of America
told the justices that the regulation is more necessary now than ever. The union stated that farmworkers are increasingly indigenous workers from Mexico
and that the only effective way to communicate with them is in person.
The Trump administration
had urged the justices to side with the businesses in court documents filed before President Joe Biden
took office, but the Biden administration
later reversed its position.
The case before the justices involved Fresno-based Fowler Packing Company, which ships grapes and citrus, and Dorris-based Cedar Point Nursery, which grows strawberry plants
for commercial growers.
In 2015, union organizers used California law
to gain access to Cedar Point's property. That same year, union organizers complained Fowler Packing Company interfered with their ability to access company property for three days, which was later withdrawn.
Cedar Point Nursery v. Hassid, 20-107, is the name of the case.