About Us

Attorney & General Manager Jeffrey Natke 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.

Attorney Brian Niehaus 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. He also served as a legal intern for the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees and as attorney for the California Correctional Peace Officers Association and the Riverside Sheriffs’ Association. Brian specializes in representing members in disciplinary hearings, internal investigations and grievances, as well as Civil Service hearings and arbitrations.

Attorney Vicky Barker 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 22 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.

Senior Associate Mary LaPlante 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 22 years’ 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.

Associate John Dalrymple graduated from Antioch University with a degree is Labor Studies, but says his real education was the bargaining table and in helping to elect good officials into public office. John has represented employees in city, county, state and “special district” jurisdictions.  For several years he was Director of the Contra Costa Labor Council,  representing over 70,000 union members. Later, he worked as Staff Director for his Union’s Hospital Division.  His thirty-five years in labor have given him extensive knowledge in organizing, negotiations and contract enforcement.

Associate Nikita “Nik” Soukonnikov, JD 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” though contract negotiations, and individual and group grievances.

Associate Marjeli Cruz has eleven years’ experience, working with public and private sectors employees.  She has widespread background in union recognition, grievance handing, NLRB hearings and contract negotiations. Marjeli has organized more than 25 labor organizations “from scratch” and has negotiated more than 25 contracts. She received her B.A. in English from University of California Santa Barbara.

Associate Rich Anderson received his B.A. and M.A. in English from California State University, Northridge, where he served two consecutive terms as President of his union, representing over 8,000 Teaching Associates, Graduate Assistants, Graders, and Tutors at the 23 California State University campuses.  He negotiated statewide contracts, handled individual and group grievances, managed organizing staff, and lobbied legislators on the local, state, and national level.  Most recently, Rich worked for another international union as a Field Representative, handling discipline cases, grievances and arbitRrations, implementing steward training programs, and conducting all aspects of membership organizing and political campaigns. Rich’s special role at the CEA office involves communication and education of Association Boards and members.

Associate Joan Heithoff 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 for 15 as head negotiator for the Milwaukee teachers union.  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.

Associate Bruce Yarwood received his B.S. from the University of Massachusetts and worked for the Department of Defense for 20 years. There, he rose to leadership in the Federal Employees Union, achieved a Master’s Degree in Organizational Management, and then went to law school. After earning his Juris Doctorate, Bruce spent 15 years teaching Labor Relations at the university, and representing city and county employees in the Las Vegas area. His areas of expertise include contract negotiations, arbitration and labor-management collaboration, “whenever this is possible.”