About Us


Jeffrey Natke, Labor Relations Attorney & General Manager. Jeff has been with CEA since August of 2009. Jeff 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.

Mary LaPlante, Managing Labor Representative, Mary has been with CEA since May of 2010. Mary 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 over 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.

Vicky Barker, Managing Labor Relations Attorney, Vicky has been with CEA since June of 2014. Vicky 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 25 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.

Laura Holtan, Labor Relations Attorney, Laura has been with CEA since Oct 2020. Laura received her B.A. in Liberal Arts from Evergreen State College in Olympia, Washington and her law degree from UC Hastings College of the Law in San Francisco, with a concentration in Social Justice Lawyering. In law school, she participated in the Workers’ Rights Clinic and Mediation Clinic, and volunteered with Bay Area Legal Aid’s Consumer Law Unit. After law school, she worked as a city employee for several years as a policy and legislative staffer for Oakland City Council and as a legal fellow for the Palo Alto City Attorney’s Office. Laura is dedicated to using her public sector and legal background to advocate on behalf of city employees and their labor organizations.

Carlos Almendárez, Labor Relations Attorney, Carlos has been with CEA since December of 2021. Carlos received his B.A. in History with Distinction in General Scholarship from UC Berkeley and his law degree from UCLA. At UCLA, Carlos was Class President and a graduate of the Epstein Program in Public Interest Law and Policy. Additionally, Carlos was a legal extern for the Honorable Harry Pregerson on the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit as well as a full-time legal extern at the National Labor Relations Board. Carlos gained in-house union experience as a Senior Labor Representative at one of the largest public-sector unions in California where he provided representation during formal hearings in arbitrations pertaining to high-level discipline and contractual disputes. During this time Carlos was elected by his peers to the bargaining team where he gained first-hand experience in contract bargaining and negotiations. Carlos has also worked at union-side labor law firms dedicated to exclusively representing unions, working people, and employee benefit plans.

Susan Maroko, Labor Representative, Susan has been with CEA since May of 2022. Susan received a B.A. in Journalism from California State University, Northridge (1994) and a M.S. in Labor Studies from the University of Massachusetts, Amherst (2014). Susan was an organizer and business agent for the United Food & Commercial Workers (UFCW), Local 951, before spending more than 16 years as a Staff Representative with the United Steelworkers (USW) in the NW Indiana and Chicagoland area. She was the lead in more than 80 labor agreements in both private and public sector, as well as, handled grievances, arbitrations, supported, and educated union members.

Victoria Lynn DeFrank, Labor Representative, JD, Victoria has been with CEA since June 2022.  Her interest in labor relations began with her election to President of a local union of Highway Clerical Employees in Pittsburgh.  Victoria graduated from the University of Pittsburgh with a BA in Political Science.  She returned to her alma mater to receive her law degree in 1989.  Victoria is licensed in Pennsylvania and the Supreme Court of the United States.  Victoria has worked as a union representative for about 25 years.  This work included organizing public employees for AFSCME and as the Director of Organizing for an association of independent unions that represented telephone employees.  Prior to joining CEA Victoria represented public employees for Connecticut Council 4, AFSCME.  Her work focused on chairing contract negotiations, contract and interest arbitration and assisting local officers in labor/management forums. Victoria has also taught classes on leadership development, grievance presentation and organizing.