In Pacific Legal Foundation’s new satirical video, The Bullhorn Exemption: California’s Property Rights at Stake, we highlight the absurdity of a California law that allows labor union activists to enter private property for three hours a day, 120 days out of the year, to recruit new members.
The video shows a California “lawyer” meeting with a client from the “Union of Fancy Farmers” who is looking to increase membership and wants advice as to how he can legally do this.
The attorney’s response: Bullhorns…lots of bullhorns.
The client is obviously shocked; how can barging onto private property and harassing employees be legal? Flabbergasted, he figures that something cannot be right here.
Nonetheless, the attorney continues to suggest using multiple bullhorns and screaming at workers during a dialogue that is humorous to be sure. But the reality of the situation is not so funny.
Imagine grilling steaks in your backyard only to have vegan activists storming your property, shouting at you and trying to get you to abandon your meat-eating ways and join their cause. Sounds ridiculous, doesn’t it? That is because it is.
Yet, this same principle is what occurred for one California produce company, leading to the Supreme Court case Cedar Point Nursery v. Hassid.
Cedar Point Nursery is a California produce grower that produces baby strawberry plants that are then sold to other growers, who replant and raise the strawberries. These strawberry plants feed millions of Americans each year. The nursery also employs up to 500 workers during their busy season and is known for compensating and treating its employees generously.
Footage captured by Cedar Point employees shows a busy workday during peak harvest season disrupted by union activists who came onto the property shouting and using bullhorns to get the employees’ attention.
The employees of Cedar Point were not encouraged or empowered by this spectacle. On the contrary, some reported being scared. “It was dark and there was a lot of them, so you’re scared, and you don’t know what they’re planning on doing,” said lower elevation manager Matthew McEwen.
Mike Fahner, the founder and CEO of Cedar Point, added: “None of us had ever experienced anything like that. We’ve never seen a UFW flag. We had absolutely no forewarning. This was an attack of monumental proportions.”
Many employees have been with the company for several decades and enjoyed their jobs. “I feel bad because I believe the company has never treated us bad,” another worker commented.
While the issue at hand is serious, because one of our country’s core principles is an individual’s right to hold property and exclude unwanted trespassers, the law is so laughable, it was ripe for satire.
So why does such a seemingly outrageous law exist?
When the law originally was passed, some workers lived on the farms they worked. Federal labor law allowed for access to workers who were truly inaccessible by any other means, but that didn’t include agricultural workers. California activists argued for, and got, much broader access for agricultural unions, with no need to prove that workers are inaccessible.
Today, that’s almost never the case. At Cedar Point, year-round employees do not live on Cedar Point property and seasonal workers are put up in hotels, paid for by the nursery. They have access to internet, television, and radio. There are many ways for these workers to learn about labor unions. In fact, coercive tactics, like using bullhorns, would seem like the worst means of appealing to potential new members when far-less-aggressive means of communication exist.
Is the video an exaggeration of a meeting with an attorney? Of course. But it doesn’t change the fact that such a law exists and that it disrupts and harasses workers.
There is most certainly a place for labor unions in the American workforce, but membership should be voluntary and gained through non-coercive methods.
Our attorney, Joshua Thompson, argued on behalf of Cedar Point at the Supreme Court in March, asserting that the law is a violation of the Fifth Amendment’s takings clause, which protects private property from being taken without just compensation.
But at least until the Court delivers its ruling, some unions have adopted the same mantra as our fictional attorney: “When in doubt, more bullhorns.”