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Professor Jenny Breen: SCOTUS' Latest Anti-Labor Ruling Goes Far Beyond Farm Workers

Posted on Friday 6/25/2021
Jenny Breen

The US Supreme Court's Latest Anti-Labor Ruling Goes Far Beyond Farm Workers

(Common Dreams | June 24, 2021) In a ruling handed down Wednesday in Cedar Point Nursery v. Hassid, the Supreme Court decided that agricultural workers do not have a right to meet with union organizers at their place of work. 

The surprise of the opinion was less in the outcome itself, coming as it did from the most anti-labor Supreme Court in modern memory, than in the stunning rationale provided by the Court. 

In short, the decision further expands the Court's protection of near-absolute property rights for employers in an opinion that threatens to undermine not only labor union regulations like the one at issue here, but any government regulation that impacts the right of an owner to exclude someone from their property. The potential consequences of this decision are enormous.

The regulation at issue permitted labor unions to enter the property of agricultural employers during non-working hours and were not permitted to interfere with the actual work of the agricultural employer. The regulations include an explicit statement that it is the policy of the state of California to encourage the right of agricultural employees to organize and recognizes the more challenging context of organizing agricultural workers in particular, who are often seasonal employees working in remote locations. 

Given these challenges, in order to make real their right to self-organization just like other workers, agricultural workers, the regulation stated, have the right to meet with union organizers at their place of work.

The Court's decision held that this regulation is unconstitutional because it "takes" the employer's property without paying the employer "just compensation," as required by the Fifth Amendment. 

Though we typically think of "takings" cases as involving the actual, physical seizure of property (think of the infamous 2005 opinion Kelo v. City of New London, in which the city condemned private property for use by a private developer), takings cases also include a broader range of government activities that we broadly call "regulatory takings" cases. 

These are cases in which a government regulation affects private property, but in ways that are different than a physical taking. Regulatory takings cases are typically governed by the fact-intensive balancing test laid out in the Supreme Court's 1978 decision Penn Central Transportation Company v. New York City ...

Read the full article.