Supreme Court rules against unions organizing on California farms

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Farm workers hoe the rows in Moss Landing, Calif., on April 28, 2020. A Supreme Court ruling said farm union organizers can't drum up support on private farms without compensating the business. File Photo by Terry Schmitt/UPI

Farm workers hoe the rows in Moss Landing, Calif., on April 28, 2020. A Supreme Court ruling said farm union organizers can't drum up support on private farms without compensating the business. File Photo by Terry Schmitt/UPI | License Photo

June 23 (UPI) -- The U.S. Supreme Court on Wednesday ruled against union representatives recruiting farmworkers on private agricultural property in California, challenging a nearly 50-year-old state law.

The high court voted 6-3 unions can't organize farmworkers on private farms without compensating the agricultural businesses. Justices Stephen Breyer, Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan dissented.

Previously, the California Agricultural Labor Relations Act of 1975 allowed union representatives to drum up support on private farms after work hours and during workers' lunch breaks. The law had its limits, though -- organizers could only enter the properties three times a day for 120 days each year and they were required to provide written notice to the Agricultural Labor Relations Board.

"The access regulation amounts to simple appropriation of private property," Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts wrote in the majority opinion.

"Access regulation grants labor organizations a right to invade the growers' property. It therefore constitutes a per se physical taking."

The ruling, though, allowed for government officials to enter private farm property to conduct health and safety inspections.

The ruling is a blow for farm unions' ability to organize workers, and indeed could have consequences for labor organizers in other industries.

The United Farm Workers union said the ruling "makes a racist and broken farm labor system even more unequal."

"Farm workers are the hardest working people in America. This decision denies them the right to use their lunch breaks to freely discuss whether they want to have a union. The Supreme Court has failed to balance a farmer's property rights with a farm worker's human rights."

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