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Thursday, June 24, 2021

The Supreme Court Just Struck a Big Blow for Private Property—Against Union Invasion

Whether you love or loathe unions, all Americans should celebrate this victory for freedom.

Cedar Point Nursery Owner Mike Fahner | Image Credit: Pacific Legal Foundation

Do union activists have the right to invade a business owner’s private property? The Supreme Court just rejected a California regulation and answered the question with a resounding “no.”

Here’s the backstory.

Mike Fahner owns a successful strawberry farm in California, Cedar Point Nursery, which provides roughly 500 jobs and pays above-market wages. But in 2015, union activists came to the farm, which is private property, to protest and harass the farmworkers in an attempt to get them to join their union. Video shows their behavior was aggressive and disruptive. Yet due to a California state law mandating that union activists be allowed on private property up to 3 hours a day, 120 days a year, Fahner was unable to make the activists leave his property.

Working with the libertarian-leaning Pacific Legal Foundation, Fahner challenged this law as an unconstitutional violation of his property rights—and his case made it all the way to the Supreme Court. In a 6-3 ruling handed down on Wednesday, the Supreme Court struck down the California law as a violation of the Fifth Amendment, which protects Americans’ property rights. The Fifth Amendment mandates that the government cannot take peoples’ property without providing them adequate compensation.

“The right to exclude is ‘a fundamental element of the property right,’” Chief Justice John Roberts wrote for the majority. What he means is that core to your property rights is the ability to remove people from your property. After all, you don’t really own your home if you don’t have the right to make other people leave. 

So, by restricting business owners’ rights to exclude people from their property—and failing to compensate them for this restriction—the California government violated the Constitution.     

The three liberal-leaning justices argued that this regulation doesn’t count as a “taking” of property, because the state is not literally taking it away, but merely regulating its use. However, as the Wall Street Journal editorial board notes, such a narrow and limited view of property contradicts the Founders’ vision and would negate landowners’ fundamental rights.

“Under the liberals’ interpretation, governments could require property owners to give the public or special interest groups access to their land to promote broadly defined social goods,” the Journal explains. “Owners of beach front property would have to let the public trample through their land. Workplaces might have to let political organizers talk to employees.” 

Whether one loves or loathes unions is entirely beside the point. The Supreme Court just struck a blow for property rights, and all Americans should celebrate this victory for freedom.

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