November 17, 2020

U.S. Supreme Court to Review Union Access to California Farms

The United States Supreme Court has granted review in a case that will determine if the California Agricultural Labor Relations Act (ALRA) regulation granting union organizers the right to enter private property to recruit employees constitutes an unconstitutional “taking” of private property under the Fifth Amendment. Under the “Access Rule,” farms must allow labor organizers onto their property three times a day for 120 days each year.

The case, Cedar Point Nursery v. Hassid, was initiated by strawberry nursery Cedar Point Nursery and stone fruit producer Fowler Packing after union organizers relied on the access regulation to enter their property. A federal district court rejected the plaintiffs’ argument that the regulation violates the Fifth Amendment and the nursery appealed. A divided 3-justice panel of the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals upheld the ruling, but a group of eight judges dissented from the majority’s opinion in a subsequent denied petition for rehearing by the full panel of the Ninth Circuit. The dissenting judges agreed with the plaintiffs that the rule constituted a taking because it granted the union an easement to access and use the employer’s land in furtherance of a governmental purpose. The dissenting judges would have ruled the ALRB’s access rule unlawful as an unconstitutional taking of the employer’s property without just compensation in violation of the 5th Amendment.

In its petition, the agricultural employers are asking the Supreme Court to review the 9th Circuit’s ruling, arguing that the federal courts of appeals are divided on the question whether an easement like the one created by the regulation constitutes a state-sponsored trespass for which its owner must be compensated.

Western Growers and allies are filing amicus briefs in support of the petitioners. We will provide additional updates regarding the case as they become available.