U.S. Supreme Court to Hear Case on California Farm Worker Labor Law

U.S. Supreme Court to Hear Case on California Farm Worker Labor Law

The United States Supreme Court has agreed to hear a case that challenges a 45-year-old California labor law that allows union organizers to go on farmland and speak to agricultural workers during certain times of the day. The law is being challenged as a property rights issue, with challengers claiming that it amounts to a “union trespass law.” The outcomes of this case could have substantial repercussions for farm workers who are already exempt from many labor law protections in California. To learn more about this legal challenge or to discuss legal issues in your workplace, call or contact an experienced employment law attorney in your area today.

Agricultural Labor Relations Act of 1975

The law being challenged is the California Agricultural Labor Relations Act of 1975. Since the 1930’s, California labor laws have allowed employees across the state to organize and join a union; however, these laws did not apply to farm workers until the Agricultural Labor Relations Act of 1975. As part of the Act, one provision of the law allows union organizers onto the premises of agricultural employers to meet and talk with workers about organizing or joining a union. This right of union organizers is limited only to one hour before the start of the working day, one hour during employees’ lunch break, and one hour after the completion of the workday.

Legal Challenge

Several farmers and the California Farm Bureau claim that this provision of the law is unconstitutional because it amounts to a governmental taking of private property. They claim that the law allows for unwanted strangers on private property and violates the property owner’s right to exclude trespassers from their land. This particular case began when union activists entered the property of Cedar Point Nursery and was joined by Fowler Packing Company after they refused to allow access to union organizers. They claim that none of their employees live on the premises, and all workers have full access to engage with union organizers when not at work and off of the property.

The challenge was rejected by the federal trial court and court of appeals, stating that regulating private property like allowing union organizers is not the same as a government taking of private property. Because allowing union organizers on the land temporarily is not considered a permanent taking of the land, the lower courts rejected the claims that the provision of the Agricultural Labor Relations Law violated the property owners’ Fifth Amendment rights. Proponents of the law argue that the regulation is more similar to the regulations that allow citizens to access beaches that are technically owned by private citizens with homes on the water. The United States Supreme Court is slated to hear oral arguments on the case next year and issue a decision by June 2021.

Talk to a Lawyer Today

If you have questions about the impact of this case or any other legal issue in your workplace, call or contact a knowledgeable California employment law attorney today.