About Us

Jeffrey Natke, Attorney & General Manager, received his B.A. in History from Alma College and his law degree, Magna Cum Laude, from Michigan State University.  In law school, Jeff earned Achievement Awards for both Labor Arbitration and Sports Law, and served as Editor on the Michigan State Law Review. He was an intern with the U.S. Army JAG Corps, and an extern for a Michigan Supreme Court Justice.  Jeff later practiced labor and employment law in Las Vegas, prior to moving to California, where he has been representing public sector labor unions since 2009.

Brian Niehaus, Attorney and Senior Labor Representative, received his B.A. in Political Science from the University of Cincinnati, and his law degree, with a concentration in labor and employment, from California Western School of Law in San Diego.  During law school, he worked for the Employee Rights Center where he fought for employees denied wages, overtime pay and unemployment insurance. Brian also served as a legal intern for the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees before working as an attorney for the California Correctional Peace Officers Association.  Brian specializes in contract negotiations as well as representing members in disciplinary hearings, internal investigations and grievances, and Civil Service hearings and arbitrations.

Vicky Barker, Labor Relations Attorney, received her B.A. in Political Science, Magna Cum Laude, from UC San Diego and her law degree from the University of California, Davis. In law school, she was an Editor on the U.C. Davis Law Review. Vicky has been representing public employees for more than 23 years and specializes in contract negotiations, disciplinary hearings and has arbitrated over 100 association grievances. Named one of the top women litigators by California’s legal newspaper, Vicky has dedicated her career to pursuing justice for workers and their families.

Mary LaPlante, Managing Labor Representative,   worked for 16 years in public agencies in California, including several years as a Manager in the County of San Bernardino.  She graduated Magna Cum Laude from the University of La Verne with a B.S. degree in Public Administration and has 30 years of experience as a Labor Relations Representative on the “union side.”  Mary’s special area of expertise is contract negotiations.  She has served as chief negotiator in dozens of cities and special districts and has proven experience in representing members in grievances, PERB hearings, and disciplinary appeals.

Marjeli Cruz,  Senior Labor Representative, has over 19 years of experience working with public and private sectors employees.  She has a widespread background in union recognition, grievance handling, discipline hearings, arbitrations and contract negotiations. Marjeli has organized various labor organizations “from scratch” and has negotiated dozens of contracts. She received her B.A. in English from University of California Santa Barbara.

Joan Heithoff, Labor Representative, received her B.S. in Secondary Education and an M.S. in Industrial and Labor Relations from the University of Wisconsin. She started her career teaching high school social studies, and served as head negotiator for the Milwaukee teachers union, for 15 years. Joan left teaching to be a full-time union rep for education employees throughout the state.  Although her special area of expertise is in contract negotiations, she also has extensive experience in handling discipline cases, grievances, and arbitrations

John Dalrymple, Labor Representative,  graduated from Antioch University with a degree in Labor Studies, but says his real education was the bargaining table, building strong unions and in helping to elect good working family champions into public office. John has represented employees in city, county, state and “special district” jurisdictions.  Later, he worked as a Staff Director for a division of a large health care local. For several years he was Director of the Contra Costa Labor Council, a coalition of dozens of unions with over 70,000 members. John’s 35 years in labor relations has given him extensive knowledge in organizing, negotiations and contract enforcement.

Nikita “Nik” Soukonnikov, Labor Representative,  received his B.A. from Bard College, and his law degree magna cum laude from the University of Minnesota Law School. He is licensed to practice in Oregon.  Nik worked as a union organizer before law school, helping employees at public and private agencies form unions and negotiate labor contracts. During law school, he specifically represented victims of employment discrimination and wage theft, in state and federal courts.  Nik emphasizes his goal which is to “expand the rights of the average employee” through contract negotiations, and individual and group grievances.

Shereen Hamed, Labor Representative, received her B.A. in Political Science from Michigan State University and her law degree from the University of the District of Columbia, David A. Clarke School of Law. She is licensed to practice in Washington, D.C., and has been a committed advocate for the labor movement since 2012. She previously worked as an EEO Attorney at the American Federation of Government Employees, where she litigated discrimination complaints against the federal government before the EEOC. She also clerked for the U.S. Merit Systems Protection Board, as well as the legal departments of the Communications Workers of America, and the American Federation of State County and Municipal Employees.