Farms in California produce much of the food eaten by Americans. Over the years, the treatment of farm workers in California has come under scrutiny because they often work long hours for very little money. Decades ago, Cesar Chavez’s movement made gains for union organizers in the state, but a Supreme Court decision in June has changed that. At issue for the court was property rights, not labor.
California’s unique law
California had a law on the books that made it possible for union organizers to visit workers on farms. They were able to do this for hours per day during non-work times. The Supreme Court ruled this unconstitutional, in part because it forces private farmers to allow organizers on their land. The justices said this allows union organizers to essentially have eminent domain.
Under the Constitution, that right of eminent domain is limited to the government. California could use eminent domain rights to acquire access to someone’s land, but they can’t transfer that right to a union. Private organizers should not have rights that supersede those of the landowners whose farms the work happens on.
Some advocates for farmers are happy with the ruling. They note that the California law made it difficult for farm owners to control access to their own land.
Getting legal assistance
If you or a loved one has been impacted by eminent domain proceedings, it’s important to contact a lawyer. A legal professional may help you understand if the people seeking to take your land have the right to do so. If the eminent domain claim is valid, an attorney may also work to help you get fair market-value compensation.