High court backs businesses challenging California labour law

WASHINGTON (AP) — The Supreme Court on Wednesday sided with California agriculture businesses that objected to a state regulation giving unions access to farm property to organise workers.

As a result of the ruling, the businesses’ attorney said, California will have to modify or abandon the regulation put in place in 1975 after the efforts of labour leader Cesar Chavez.

The justices ruled 6-3 along ideological lines for the agriculture businesses. It’s another potential setback for unions as a result of a high court decision.

“The access regulation amounts to simple appropriation of private property,” Chief Justice John Roberts wrote for the conservative members of the court. Roberts said the regulation “grants labour organisations a right to invade the growers’ property”.

At issue was a California regulation that allows unions access to farms and other agriculture businesses for up to three hours per day, 120 days per year, in order to organise workers. Businesses are supposed to be notified before organisers arrive, and organisers are supposed to come during nonwork times such as lunch and before and after work.

Two agriculture businesses had challenged the regulation saying it had the effect of taking their property without compensation in violation of the Constitution. The businesses also said the regulation was outdated and unnecessary given that unions can now reach workers many ways, including via smartphone and radio.

Writing for the majority, Roberts rejected the suggestion that the ruling would “endanger a host of state and federal government activities involving entry onto private property”.

The Supreme Court in Washington. PHOTO: AP