Unions have long had government-protected privileges that no other institution or organization has. They hold monopolies as exclusive collective bargaining units; can collect dues before paychecks are even issued (government is the only other institution that can withhold earnings); and have forced unionization on, and collected dues from, workers who don’t want to be members.
They’ve also been allowed to commit violence with impunity during strikes, their members can walk off their jobs without losing them, and organizers are free to routinely trespass on private property to snare independent workers, thanks to government favoritism. California, for instance, grants union organizers the privilege of walking onto private property for one-hour periods before or after work hours. Their only restriction is that they cannot be disruptive.
Some California farmers have appealed to the Ninth Circuit to stop the trespassing. Their case, Cedar Point Nursery v. Gold, was provoked in 2015 when, according to the Pacific Legal Foundation, organizers from the United Farm Workers “entered and walked across our clients’ property during harvest time, promoting the union with bullhorns.” Some workers were so intimidated, they left the Cedar Point Nursery. By any objective definition, the union’s activity would have to be considered disruptive.
The Herald and News of Klamath Fall, Ore., reported that several workers told the media that the 2015 “demonstration was unnecessary and unwanted.” Manuel Torres, a seasonal worker, said the union intrusion “was a surprise for me and for everybody.”
“They told us that we need changes here because we were treated badly,” said Torres, who spoke through an interpreter. “I have never seen any of that here.
“I am free to come and go and I am not indentured or anything,” he told the Herald and News.
Cedar Point Nursery v. Gold was initially dismissed by a lower court. But on appeal, Wen Fa, a Pacific Legal Foundation attorney, told a Ninth Circuit panel last month that “our concern is with the regulations that allow unions onto the property in the first place.” The plaintiffs consider the union invasions to be violations of the Constitution’s Takings Clause, the Fifth Amendment and the Fourth Amendment’s Seizure Clause.
Wen told the court that in addition to property rights, it should also consider the impact of union organizers contaminating crops and leaving behind litter.
While the primary combatants in this dispute are farmers and unions, the court’s decision will reach beyond both groups, and outside of California, as well.
“The case is important for California growers and the nation’s consumers,” Fa wrote in the foundation’s blog last month. “Union intrusions on private property hamper production, especially if they occur in the midst of a busy harvest season. By harming the growers, the regulation also hurts consumers, who are saddled with the resulting increase in prices.”
Apart from what the Ninth Circuit decides, California lawmakers could stop unions from violating property rights with legislation that would prohibit organizers from invading private property. But given that the Legislature is often a union collaborator and the Ninth Circuit, sometimes called the “Ninth circus,” has a deserved reputation for skewing left, California farmers are probably going to have to find another way to protect their property.
Kerry Jackson is a fellow with the Center for California Reform at the Pacific Research Institute.