In California, farmers have property rights — except three times a day. That’s when total strangers can come onto a farm and solicit its employees to join a union. And they can do it for three months at a stretch.
That’s the scenario the U.S. Supreme Court will take up next year, when an appeal filed by a California nursery and packing house will be heard.
The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals tossed out the lawsuit, reasoning that the trespass was only temporary so it was no big deal and didn’t infringe on the nursery owner’s rights that much.
Let’s set aside the fact that the state Agricultural Labor Relations Board’s “Union Access Regulation” is mainly an effort to help out the United Farm Workers union — which, by the way, doesn’t need any help.
That’s just political. What’s important is the bedrock right property owners have to keep trespassers off their land.
Let’s do an exercise. Substitute “the police” for the UFW and say an officer can walk through your house three times a day without a warrant or probable cause.
Or, better yet, let’s say that, three times a day, any member of the public can wander through the governor’s bedroom.
After all, it’s only a temporary infringement of a property right, according to the 9th Circuit.
We shudder at the thought of any federal judge suspending constitutional rights of any type, even temporarily. The Bill of Rights is not temporary and cannot be set aside at the whim of a regulator or a legislature.
“The Constitution forbids government from requiring you to allow unwanted strangers onto your property. And union activists are no exception,” said Joshua Thompson, a lawyer at the Pacific Legal Foundation, which represents the nursery. “California’s regulation that allows them to do so violates property owners’ fundamental right to exclude trespassers.”
Judges exist to read a law or regulation, and when it does not square with the Constitution, they are obligated to declare them null and void. The 9th Circuit clearly failed in that respect.
The court’s other bizarre reasoning for upholding the regulation is it doesn’t impact the rest of the nursery’s rights, so it’s OK. Again, the reasoning is strained and doesn’t pass the constitutionality test.
Other states don’t force farmers to throw open their gates to union organizers — or anyone else.
After it hears this disturbing case, the U.S. Supreme Court should wad up this regulation and throw it in the trash can and issue a warning to legislatures and regulators everywhere that constitutional rights are not part-time.