May 5, 2016

Supplemental briefing in challenge to Union Access Rule

By Damien M. Schiff Senior Attorney

In Cedar Point Nursery v. Gould, PLF attorneys challenge the California Agricultural Labor Relations Board’s Union Access Rule.  Pursuant to this rule, unions can 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.  Of course, nowadays most farm workers have access to hundreds of Spanish-speaking radio stations, internet sites, and other media outlets.  They also have cellular and smartphones, and use social media sites like any other group of workers.  Nevertheless, the Board insists that its regulation is still necessary to “access” these employees.

In response to our motion for a preliminary injunction, the court asked for additional briefing on our claim that the Access Rule results in an unconstitutional seizure of our clients’ property, in violation of the Fourth Amendment.  Earlier this week, we filed a supplemental brief along with more than a half-dozen declarations and other evidence showing how our clients’ interests in their property vastly outweigh any interest the Board may have in the warrantless seizure of their property for union proselytizing.  For example, we explain how the Access Rule threatens our clients’ ability to maintain safe and clean working environments.  Our clients’ agricultural operations require that employees adhere to strict sanitation protocols in the fields, and strict safety procedures in the packing sheds.  Yet union representatives obviously have no reason to be aware of these rules, or incentive to follow them.  We expect a ruling on the preliminary injunction motion presently.

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Cedar Point Nursery v. Gould

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.

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