Thomas Gallatin / June 28, 2021

SCOTUS: Unions Can’t Violate Property Rights

The Court struck down a California law permitting union organizers free access to farmers’ land.

In a 6-3 ruling last week, the U.S. Supreme Court overturned a decades-old California law and in so doing restored farmers’ property rights — specifically, the right to exclude organized labor advocates from accessing farm property without permission. It’s not just a win for property rights; it’s a defeat for labor unions.

At issue was a 1975 California regulation that had granted union organizers the right to access private farmland for the express purpose of seeking to organize farm workers. “Two growers in California challenged a 1975 regulation by the state’s Agricultural Labor Relations Board that requires farmers to allow union organizers onto their property three hours a day for 120 days each year,” The Wall Street Journal reports. “They argued that the regulation was equivalent to a time-limited government easement and thus constituted what’s known as a ‘per se’ physical taking of property.”

Writing for the Court majority, Chief Justice John Roberts observed that core constitutional considerations were at play. “The right to exclude is ‘one of the most treasured’ rights of property ownership,” he wrote. “Accordingly, the growers’ complaint states a claim for an uncompensated taking in violation of the Fifth and Fourteenth Amendments.”

Unsurprisingly, union leaders lamented the ruling. “You double down on that exclusion and discrimination by saying that a state law that’s been in existence for almost 50 years is not respectful of the growers’ rights,” complained Mario Martinez, general counsel for the United Farmworkers Union. “But there was no discussion of the workers who are essential workers to feed America. There was no discussion of their rights at all.”

The issue of how the Constitution defines property rights is what is essentially at the heart of the case. Those on the Left lift the concerns of public interests over private interests and in turn seek to limit individual property rights.

The Court’s ruling has challenged such an ever-encroaching view. “Governments have increasingly been conscripting private citizens into carrying out their policy agenda,” argue the Journal’s editors. “The Court’s conservative majority has repudiated one front of this assault and dealt a major victory for property rights.”

Finally, on a directly related topic, there’s the issue of the legal status of many of these seasonal farmer workers. Of course, that question was not in play in this court case, but this episode does serve to expose the Left’s generally low view of private property rights and national boundaries in general. This explains Joe Biden’s essentially open-borders immigration “enforcement” policy. If Biden truly cared about protecting Americans’ property rights — or American workers, for that matter — he’d be fully invested in securing the border.

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