May 31, 2016

Amicus brief filed in arbitration challenge

By Damien M. Schiff Senior Attorney

Last week, PLF filed an amicus brief on behalf of a broad coalition of agriculture and property rights groups to challenge California’s so-called Mandatory Mediation and Conciliation Process.  The general rule for labor arbitration between private employers and employees is that the state can force you to negotiate, but it can’t force you to accept any particular terms.  In California, however, agricultural employers can be compelled, at the behest of a disgruntled union, to submit to a private mediator who in turn has the power to impose a collective bargaining “agreement” on the employer.  A California court of appeal ruled last year that this system is unconstitutional because it treats similarly situated employers differently, and because it delegates too much legislative power to private-party mediators. The California Supreme Court agreed to hear the case.  Our amicus brief address both constitutional issues, and makes the larger policy point that the Mandatory Mediation and Conciliation process thwarts basic democratic principles of public deliberation and accountability.  (For more information, check out this blog post by Ilya Shapiro of the Cato Institute, one of the entities that joined our amicus brief).

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Gerawan Farming v. Agricultural Labor Relations Board

Gerawan Farming is a family-owned company that grows grapes and stone fruit in the San Joaquin Valley. Unique in the nation, a California statute compels agricultural employers and their employees’ unions to assent to collective bargaining agreements. Rather than being negotiated at arm’s length, these agreements’ terms are dictated to the parties by a “mediator” who has nearly unlimited discretion to compel the parties’ assent to whatever terms the mediator wishes. A California appellate court struck down this scheme that imposed an unwanted “agreement” on Gerawan, but the California Supreme Court granted review. Representing an array of agricultural and constitutional liberty groups, PLF filed an amicus brief arguing that this compulsory regime is unconstitutional.

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