Thursday, Oct. 29, 2015, began like any other day at Cedar Point Nursery, in Northern California’s Butte Valley. It was early and we were operating at full capacity when chaos erupted. Union activists stormed our facility by surprise. Before the day was over, we found ourselves in a legal fight for our company, our employees, and our private property rights. A fight that the U.S. Supreme Court settled last week.
My wife and I founded Cedar Point Nursery in the late 1990s. Today, we are one of nine California nurseries that supply “mother plants” to fruit growers in California. These customers then produce 85% of all strawberry fruit consumed in the United States.
Our employees are the backbone of the company. During the peak of our harvest season, Cedar Point Nursery employs over 500 people, but our core team is comprised of 45 individuals and family members. They round out the management team and have been with CPN for 15 to 25 years. These are career employees promoted from within.
This is what the United Farm Workers found that morning in 2015 when its union recruiters raided our workplace, crashed our trim sheds, and shouted through bullhorns. The UFW tried to convince our employees to unionize. It failed. Although a few employees were intimidated, the rest ignored the union drama and returned to work.
The raid on our company was a first in this part of California. Most of us have never seen a UFW flag. However, we quickly figured out that this invasion threatened our ability to deliver product on time. We have a narrow six-week window to harvest, process, pack, cool and deliver our plants. We must work at peak efficiency to meet commitments to our customers.
Our staff rose to the challenge, however. Because of our staff’s hard work and perseverance, no customer’s order was delayed that season.
When the dust settled, we were all in agreement: what happened must have been illegal. To our shock, we learned that the union trespassing on to our property was allowed under California law. If we denied the union access, we would be the ones punished.
Under California’s union access regulation, we had to allow union organizers onto the property for three hours per day for 120 days per year. California is the only state in the union with this access law, and it applies only to those in the business of agriculture.
Cedar Point Nursery is our life’s work. For the union to have the power to put this at risk and threaten our future is wrong.
So, in 2016, with help from the Pacific Legal Foundation and Sagaser, Watkins & Wieland, we sued to overturn California’s law.
We never imagined that five years later, this lawsuit would end up before the highest court in the land, but we are grateful that it did. Allowing California’s trespass regulation to stand would have opened the floodgates to any manner of property invasions not just in California, but anywhere in the country.
This has been a long journey, however, we never wavered from our belief that what we experienced five years ago was wrong.
Last week, we received the news the U.S. Supreme Court affirmed our property rights, ruling that the state couldn’t force us to open our property to union organizers without compensation. The decision means that everyone can enjoy the freedom to decide for themselves who is and isn’t welcome on their property. That’s a victory for everyone.