Menu Close

The U.S. Supreme Court said California was violating the Constitution with a decades-old regulation that gives union organizers access to agricultural company land for part of the year to talk to workers.

Voting 6-3 along ideological lines, the justices said the 1975 provision, which grew out of the efforts of Cesar Chavez to give farm workers collective bargaining rights, infringed the rights of landowners.

The California regulation grants labor organizations a “right to take access” to an agricultural employer’s property in order to solicit support for unionization. Cal. Code Regs., tit. 8, §20900(e)(1)(C). The regulation mandates that agricultural employers allow union organizers onto their property for up to three hours per day, 120 days per year.

Organizers from the United Farm Workers sought to take access to property owned by two California growers “Cedar Point Nursery and Fowler Packing Company.

The growers filed suit in Federal District Court seeking to enjoin enforcement of the access regulation on the grounds that it appropriated without compensation an easement for union organizers to enter their property and therefore constituted an unconstitutional per se physical taking under the Fifth and Fourteenth Amendments.

The District Court denied the growers’ motion for a preliminary injunction and dismissed the complaint, holding that the access regulation did not constitute a per se physical taking because it did not allow the public to access the growers’ property in a permanent and continuous manner.

A divided panel of the Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit affirmed, and rehearing en banc was denied over dissent.

The U.S. Supreme Court reversed and ruled in favor of the landowners in the case of Cedar Point Nursery v Hassid.

The Takings Clause of the Fifth Amendment, applicable to the States through the Fourteenth Amendment, provides: “[N]or shall private property be taken for public use, without just compensation.

When the government physically acquires private property for a public use, the Takings Clause obligates the government to provide the owner with just compensation.

California’s access regulation appropriates a right to invade the growers’ property and therefore constitutes a per se physical taking. Rather than restraining the growers’ use of their own property, the regulation appropriates for the enjoyment of third parties (here union organizers) the owners’ right to exclude. The right to exclude is “a fundamental element of the property right.”