As the year draws to a close, let us mark the passing of a scrappy, blue-collar California farmer and businessman who stood up to Big Government and Big Labor — and took them down.
Less than six months after the landmark U.S. Supreme Court case of Cedar Point Nursery v. Hassid, Mike Fahner died November 7 — way too young — at the age of 58.
Typically clad in overalls and boots, Mike presided over Cedar Point Nursery in tiny Dorris, California, a couple of hours north of Sacramento. In October 2015, Mike’s routine of growing strawberries was rudely interrupted, when a horde of union organizers from the United Farmworkers of America (UFW) stormed on his property with bullhorns in a noisy effort to organize Mike\s employees.
Legally Sanctioned Invasion of Property
The UFW was able to trespass on Mike’s property thanks to a 1975 California Agricultural Labor Relations Board regulation – known as the Union Access Regulation — that allowed union officials to spend up to three hours a day, 120 days a year trying to recruit new union members on their employer’s property. By issuing the rule, California officials effectively gave unions the right to invade private property and disrupt commercial operations.
Represented by the Pacific Legal Foundation (PLF) free of charge, the owners of Cedar Point Nursery and Fowler Packing Company, whose property had also been invaded by union organizers, asked the U.S. Supreme Court to set aide the California regulation. PLF attorneys pointed out that the Constitution forbids the government from requiring you to allow unwanted strangers on your property. And union activists are no exception. Thus, the California regulation violated property owners\ fundamental right to exclude trespassers.
In its June 23, 2021 ruling, the Supreme Court agreed, saying that “government-authorized invasions of property – whether by plane, boat, cable, or beachcomber – are physical takings requiring just compensation.” The court’s majority added that “the government here has appropriated a right of access to the growers\ property, allowing union organizers to traverse it at will for three hours a day, 120 days a year.”
The Supreme Court’s ruling has implications that go far beyond a northern California strawberry nursery and packing plant. Property owners’ protections against unwanted trespassers have been confirmed for all Americans in the clearest of terms. And it wouldn’t have happened without Mike Fahner.
What One Courageous Person Can Do
As PLF attorney Joshua Thompson put it:
“Mike Fahner is a true American hero. Without Mike’s willingness to fight, there may never have been a lawsuit. Without his deep belief in justice and duty, Cedar Point Nursery would not be the landmark property rights precedent that it is. Without Mike Fahner, every American’s constitutional rights would be less secure than they are today.”