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Noah Feldman

Ideology Shows in Supreme Court Ruling on Union Organizing

If conservative justices oppose judicial activism, what did they just do to a longstanding California labor law?

Union organizers, not welcome.

Union organizers, not welcome.

Photographer: Patrick T. Fallon/AFP via Getty Images

So far, most of the Supreme Court’s opinions this term have featured a high degree of consensus. The conservative majority has mostly avoided making new law that would be partially rejected by the three liberal justices.

The exception that proves the rule is a striking decision issued on Thursday involving a California law that gives union organizers physical access to farms in order to try to unionize workers. In the 6-3 decision, with the court divided along ideological lines, the conservatives held that the law amounted to a taking of private property that requires compensation under the Fifth Amendment to the Constitution. Although the court did not go so far as to say so, the strong implication is that the law will now no longer be operative.