PLF represents California farming businesses that employ around 3,000 Californians and produce millions of dollars for California’s economy in the form of oranges, table grapes, and strawberry plants. A state Agricultural Labor Relations Board regulation – the Union Access Rule – allows union organizers to go on private land to solicit support for unionization. In 2015, union organizers entered and walked across our clients’ property during harvest time, promoting the union with bullhorns. Some workers, scared and intimidated, left the property. PLF sued, arguing that this disruptive regulation effectively takes the farmers’ property in violation of the Fifth Amendment and also violates the Fourth Amendment prohibition on unreasonable seizures.
The California Agricultural Labor Relations Board’s Union Access Rule allows union organizers to gain access to employers’ property, without their consent, to proselytize employees about the “benefits” of union membership. The regulation is a hold-over from the days when farm laborers had little access to media or other means of communications. These days, most farm workers have access to hundreds of Spanish-speaking radio stations, internet sites, and other media outlets, not to mention cellular and smartphones with which they access social media sites like any other group of workers. Nevertheless, the Board insists that its regulation is still necessary to “access” these employees.
PLF represents Cedar Point Nursery and Fowler Packing Company, two non-unionized agricultural businesses targeted by the United Farm Workers union. Cedar Point Nursery in Dorris, California, employs more than 400 seasonal employees who are housed off-site. Fresno-based Fowler Packing is one of the state’s largest shippers in the fresh produce business. Its employees do not live on company property. On behalf of these employers, PLF sued in federal court to invalidate the Union Access Rule on both Fourth and Fifth Amendment grounds. The Fourth Amendment guarantees the right to be free from unreasonable searches and seizures, while the Fifth Amendment prevents the government from depriving property owners of the right to exclude trespassers from their property without just compensation. The Union Access Rule gives union organizers the right to access private property for the purposes of soliciting support, thus seizing and taking the landowners’ property right to exclude others.
The federal district court dismissed the case in June, 2016, which the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed. PLF plans to petition the U.S. Supreme Court for review.