Robert J. Bezemek
J.D., Boalt Hall, University of California School of Law, 1973
B.A., University of California, Berkeley, 1970 (political science)
Robert J. Bezemek, the founder of the law firm, graduated from U.C. Berkeley in 1970. Bob worked as a law clerk for two summers in the Civil Rights Division of the U.S. Department of Justice in Washington, D.C., and in several other legal internship positions. In the Civil Rights Division he was introduced to complex litigation, tight deadlines and working with a team of lawyers bringing lawsuits and seeking federal court injunctions to halt blockbusting and racial discrimination in Atlanta, Chicago and Los Angeles. [Click here to read about some of his work in the Civil Rights Division.]
During law school, Bob became particularly interested in labor law due especially to his labor law professor, Dave Feller, former general counsel of the United Steelworkers Union. After getting his law degree from Boalt Hall in 1973, Bob traveled East and worked as a field attorney for the National Labor Relations Board’s Regional Office in Pittsburgh, Pa,.. There he worked on unfair labor practice and election cases involving the United Mine Workers, Steelworkers, ILGWU, and Teamsters in Pennsylvania, Ohio, upstate New York, and West Virginia. Bob’s labor law training intensified when he returned to California in early 1975, having learned about Governor Jerry Brown’s plan to create the California Agricultural Labor Relations Act. Upon adoption it became only the second law establishing and protecting farm worker unionization rights within in the United States. Bob was hired as the fourth lawyer of the newly created California Agricultural Labor Relations Board.
After working in Sacramento in the agency’s start-up phase, where he assisted Joseph Grodin and others in drafting the ALRB’s initial regulations and was involved in hiring the ALRB’ staff lawyers and investigators, Bob was appointed as the first Regional Attorney for the ALRB’s Fresno Regional office. There he supervised a team of investigators and lawyers in investigating and prosecuting unfair labor practice charges, and worked on the initial ALRB elections, including the heavily contested Gallo Winery case. [Click here to read about the creation of the ALRB]
Bob obtained the first ALRB injunction allowing union representatives to enter an agricultural employer’s fields to meet with farmworkers about the benefits of unionizing. ALRB v. Armstrong Vineyards, Fresno Superior Court. Bob also investigated, tried with ALRB Litigation Chief Robert LeProhn,and won the first unfair labor practice case involving discrimination against a farm worker for joining a Union (the UFW). Valley Farms & Rose J. Farms (1976) 2 ALRB No. 41 [Click here to read about the Valley Farms trial and read the decision]
After the California Legislature temporarily shut down the ALRB in early 1976, Bob moved to San Francisco, where he joined the union-side labor law firm of Van Bourg, Allen, Weinberg & Roger. This was not long before the EERA took effect. The EERA granted collective bargaining rights to public school and community college employees. In 1979 the HEERA took effect, providing employees of UC and CSU with bargaining rights. Then, SEERA was adopted, which extended collective bargaining to State employees. In this environment, Bob handled a wide variety of cases for scores of unions under EERA, HEERA and SEERA. These cases brought recognition to scores of unions as exclusive bargaining agents, and protected the right of employees to unionize and develop bilateral agreements governing their conditions of employment.
Bob handled hundreds of public sector labor law cases, and was the union lawyer in many of the initial decisions of the California Public Employment Relations Board. Among them was Novato Unified School District, PERB Dec. No 210, 6 PERC 13114 (1982), which delineated PERB’s standards for deciding cases of alleged anti-union discrimination. During this same time, Bob also handled numerous cases under the National Labor Relations Act. Throughout his career, Bob has been an active in arguing hundreds of cases before a wide variety of forums, including arbitration, NLRB, PERB, state and federal courts, and appellate courts. He is a frequent speaker at union and labor lawyer conferences. Bob has also been a frequent contributor of articles published in The California Public Employee Relations Journal (“CPER”), the San Francisco Daily Journal, and in union publications. He has also assisted in writing chapters for books dealing with employment and labor issues, Since 2012 he has been recognized as a “Northern California Super Lawyer.”
Here is a partial list of some of the noteworthy cases he has handled or participated in:
1. Novato Federation of Teachers, AFT Local 1986 v. Novato Unified School District, PERB Dec. No 210, 6 PERC 13114 (1982)
This is the PERB's leading precedent case establishing burden of proof and analysis of pretext in cases of discrimination due to union activity. The case arose when a high school teacher of English was reassigned to a demeaning assignment in retaliation for his protected Union activities.
2. AFT Local 2121 v. San Francisco Community College District, PERB Dec. No. 105, 3 PERC 10127 (1979)
This decision Held that a public employer’s unilateral refusal to pay contractually-guaranteed wages and benefits after the adoption of Proposition 13 by the voters of California, was illegal. Proposition 13 had restructured California tax laws and threatened to reduce the revenue of many governmental units, including public schools. The case recovered approximately one million dollars in back pay and benefits for union members.
3. United Professors of Marin, AFT Local 1610 v. Marin Community College District (1995) PERB Dec. No. 1092, 19 PERC ¶ 26070
After a college district “retreated” numerous administrators to the classroom, and placed them higher on the salary schedule than allowed by the contract, the Union alleged the district was bound to negotiate over their salary schedule placement. The District claimed, unsuccessfully, that it could reach agreement with the administrators, bypassing the Union, before they began teaching. PERB agreed the District acted unlawfully.
4. Santa Clara Unified School District (1979) PERB Dec. No. 104, 3 PERC ¶ 10124
In Santa Clara, PERB announced the standard of review for affirming or rejecting proposed decisions of PERB Administrative Law Judges.
5. AFT Local 1493 v. San Mateo Community College District (1993) PERB Dec.No. 1030, 18 PERC ¶ 25027
This decision held that unions are entitled to reasonable released time, allocated by FTE blocks.
6. Rio Linda Unified School District (SEIU Local 22), 1 PERC 558; PERB Dec. No. 71, 2 PERC 2198 (1978)
This decision prevented employer’s from unlawfully recognizing a “company union’ when a rival union was organizing the employees.
7. Santa Clarita Community College District (Part-Time Faculty United, AFT) PERB Dec. No. 1506, 27 PERC 35 (2003)
Reversing an ALJ, PERB held that a prima facie case had been established showing that the District had illegally recognized a rival union to avoid organizing of the unit by the AFT.
8. University of California PERB unit hearings.
Representing approximately 50 unions in establishing bargaining units for 100,000 UC employees, the case established, over UC's opposition, the smallest unit (the U.C. printing plant (PERB Dec. No. 243-H (1982), where about 60 employees had been continuously represented by printing trades unions for over 100 years) and some of the largest (systemwide units of various hospital employees, librarians, and lecturers, see: Clerical Employees, No. 244-H, Service Employees, 245-H, Professional Librarians No. 247-H, Patient Care Employees No. 248-H, Professional Non-Academic Senate Instructional and Research Employees No. 270-H, Skilled Trades and Crafts, No. 242-H.).
9. UC AFT v. Regents, PERB Dec. No. 359-H, 7 PERC 14293 (1983), affirming 7 PERC ¶ 14013 (1982)[decision by ALJ Barry Winograd] (Note: vacated in error due to settlement, see, e.g., 10 PERC ¶ 17178, p. 788 (1986), San Francisco Community College District, 11 PERC ¶ 18084 (Winograd, ALJ, 1987), n. 7)
This case obtained reinstatement and over $3 million in back pay for thousands of lecturers represented by UCAFT Their permissible length of maximum service was unilaterally cut from 8 to 4 years, without meeting and conferring with the AFT, even though they were not then members of a union with bargaining rights. The preemptive dismissal of these lecturers was presumably aimed at discouraging them from voting to organize a lecturer bargaining unit.
10. Gilroy Unified School District (1979) PERB Dec. No. 98, 3 PERC ¶ 10101
PERB case holding that children’s center teachers were faculty, not classified, and must be placed in faculty bargaining units.
11. Cumero v. King City, PERB Dec. No. 197, 6 PERC 13065 (1982)
This case determined the legality of mandatory agency shop accounting rules in the public sector. I represented amicus SEIU and AFT in the precedent setting case regarding payment of agency fees by non-union members.
12. Chinese Times Publishing Co. (NLRB) 20-RC-14273 (1977)
This was the first successful effort to organize low-paid workers in San Francisco’s Chinatown into a labor union.
13. IBEW Local 180 and Golden West Electric, 307 NLRB 1494, 140 LRRM 1293 (1992)
The National Labor Relations Board held that for an employer in the building and construction industry, the burden of proof rested with the party asserting that the employer's relationship with the union was created under Section 9(a), making it far more difficult for employer-instigated decertification of incumbent unions to succeed. This is one of the most cited cases on this subject.
14. UAW and American Sunroof Corporation, 243 NLRB 1128, 102 LRRM 1089 (1979)
This NLRB case established standards which preclude sweetheart deals with company-controlled unions from preventing legitimate organizing by a petitioning union (in this case, the UAW).
15. Friendly Cab Company, Inc., 344 NLRB 64 (2005), 2004 WL 963360 , enfd. 512 F. 3d 1090 (9th Cir. 2008)
The NLRB held that taxi cab drivers in Oakland and the East Bay are not independent contractors, but are actually employees and are entitled to seek union representation.
16. Community Services Planning Council/Area 4 Agency on Aging, 243 NLRB 795 (1979),
holding that NLRB had jurisdiction over nonprofit association providing services under contract with State of California.
17. Valley Farms and Rose J. Farms (1976) 2 ALRB No. 41
Tried and won first case in U.S. history to decide whether a farm worker was dismissed due to his protected Union activity. Farmworker Manuel Leal was dismissed due to his support for the UFW in organizing campaign, shortly after the Agricultural Labor Relations Act took effect.
18. Constitutionality of SEERA. Pacific Legal Foundation v. Brown (Stationary Engineers Local 39 and SEIU), 29 Cal 3d 168 (1981) and People ex rel Deukmejian v. Brown (1981) 29 Cal 3d 150
This decision upheld the constitutionality of State legislation which established collective bargaining rights for employees of the State of California, and decided that the California Attorney General could not sue the Governor to challenge the new bargaining law.
19. Right to enforce evaluation procedures by writ of mandamus. Anderson v. San Mateo Community College District, 87 Cal. App. 3d 441 (1978)
This case established the right of probationary employees in schools and colleges to receive due process with respect to evaluations and decisions on their future employment status. It is one of the leading cases on the right to file a petition for writ of mandate when no other remedies are available.
20. Rights of part-time, temporary faculty to receive unemployment compensation. Cervisi v. California Unemployment Insurance Appeals Board, 208 Cal. App. 3d 635 (1989)
This case established the right of part-time, temporary employees terminated and rehired during a subsequent semester at a college or school to receive unemployment compensation benefits. In the first few years after the case was decided, more than $23 million in unemployment benefits were paid to college faculty as a consequence of this case according to officials of the EDD. By 2005 the amount exceeded $100 million.
21. Obligation of State to Keep Schools Open During Fiscal Crisis. Butt v. State of California, 4 Cal. 4th 668 (1992).
This case established the right of school district students to receive financial support from the State to
22. Faculty Rights to Compensation When District Violates 50% Law. United Professors of Marin v. Marin Community College District, et al, Marin County Superior Court No. 95857 – stipulated judgment.
This case alleged violations of California Education Code Section 84362, the Fifty Percent Law, by a community college and the State. This was the first lawsuit ever brought to enforce California’s 150 year old statute to limit administrative expenses by public schools and colleges. In this case we alleged that the State and college had neglected to properly oversee administrative expenditures at the expense of teacher salaries. Our action led to major changes in state accounting and budgeting procedures, changes which have led to more money being spent on teaching and teacher salaries. The settlement with the Marin District led to significant improvements in faculty salaries.
23. Peralta Community College District; Peralta Federation of Teachers, AFT Local 1603 v. Board of Governors of California Community Colleges, et al. Alameda County Superior Court No.793053-3
This case helped obtain an injunction on behalf of the District and the Peralta Federation of Teachers, AFT Local 1603, prohibiting the de-annexation of Vista (Berkeley City) College from Peralta Community College District on grounds it would be racially discriminatory.
24. Weddel v. California State University and Colleges, San Jose Santa Clara County Superior Court No. 647068 (1991)
This case declared unconstitutional, on due process grounds, the State College's system of requiring faculty to retire at age 70; the court held that such faculty, who are entitled to remain in service on a year-to-year basis if their performance is standard or above, must receive full due process rights when being evaluated for retention.
25. State Center Community College District v. Sadler (Fresno Superior Court No. 477124-2, 1993)
Obtained dismissal of lawsuit filed against faculty member, seeking damages for alleged failure to complete sabbatical as described in sabbatical application, on grounds employer cannot sue employee for damages)
Other Appellate Decisions
26. Stryker v. Antelope Valley Community College District, 100 Cal. App. 4th 324, 122 Cal. Rptr. 2d 489 (2002)
Amicus brief on behalf of several labor organizations to establish tenure rights of faculty, based on operation of law. The rationale of this amicus brief was accepted by the Court of Appeals, which disapproved a recently decided adverse case (Balsubramanian) and reaffirmed the principle that temporary faculty who exceed 60% of a full-time load for two years are automatically reclassified as probationary faculty.
Retiree Health Benefit Vested Rights Cases
27. Fresno Unified Retirees Association (“FURA”) v. Fresno Unified School District (2010)
Writ of mandate issued based on proof that District impaired contractual rights of 3,000 retirees to lifetime retirement health benefits, with no charge for premiums. In subsequent decision, court ordered employer to pay retirees’ legal fees.
28. Contra Costa Community Colleges Retirees Association v. Contra Costa Community College District (Contra Costa Superior Court No. 302815; First Appellate District No. A064817.)
This case, not certified for publication, held that retirees rights to a premium-free post-retirement health program had vested with employment, and when conferred during employment, and was not subject to change prior to retirement. The retirees were awarded about $18 million and restoration of future benefits. An earlier case was settled with a stipulated judgment, for a different class of retirees.
29. CRTA Protect v. West Contra Costa Unified School District (Contra Costa Superior Court No. C03-04636; First Appellate District No. AO-86837).
This unpublished decision held that the District had promised to not increase the cost of retiree co-pays and deductibles in the district paid health plans, after retirees had retired. It also ruled that the District had failed to prove it was entitled to impair retirees contracts due to a fiscal crisis, and remanded the case to determine if the employer met the stringent standards for impairing contracts. The case was then resolved through a stipulated judgment.
30 San Ramon Valley USD and two retiree organizations (AGREE and ORMCE)
These related cases, settled in the Superior Court, confirmed that the employers could not freeze employee salaries as a “price” for retaining retiree health benefits.
31 San Leandro School Retirees Action Association v. San Leandro Unified School District, Alameda County Superior Court No. 104212-0 (1986)
32. AFT 2121 v. San Francisco Community College District (Arbitration of Ghrillikes-Maxwell; arbitrator Leo Kanowitz)
This arbitration decision established that a part-time teacher denied a full-time, tenure track appointment, was entitled to "first consideration" for a job which was given to an "outside district" applicant. The applicant was ordered reinstated to a full-time, tenure track job, and given backpay. The case led to the negotiation of “first consideration” clauses in scores of Union contracts, providing for part-time faculty to be up-graded to larger assignments and tenure-track positions, through consideration of their seniority.
33. San Francisco Community College District 92 LA 108 (Wilcox 1988)
e-employment rights of emeritus faculty; standing of emeriti to grieve.
“Zoned Out – The Peculiar Assault on Free Speech by California Community College,”
California Public Employer Relations Journal (“CPER”) Vol. 207, Sept. 2012, University of California, Institute of Industrial Relations
“Retiree Health Benefits: Still Misunderstood ... Still Protected,” California Public Employee Relations Journal (“CPER”), Vol. 186, Oct. 2007, pp. 13-25, University of California, Institute of Industrial Relations
“A Short Primer on Retiree s’ Vested Health Benefits,” California Public Employee Relations Journal (“CPER”), Vol. 163, Dec. 2003, pp. 14-23, University of California, Institute of Industrial Relations
“Why We Won’t Allow the District to Monitor Faculty Communications” The Advocate, April 2000
“Law Revision Commission Proposal to Eliminate Independent Judgment Judicial Review Would Mean End of Successful Challenges to Improper Government Administrative Action,” California Labor & Employment Law Quarterly Vol. 10, No. 2, Spring/Summer 1996, State Bar of California
“Let Them Eat Cake,” A Commentary on the California Law Revision Commission and Proposals Regarding Judicial Review, California Public Employee Relations (“CPER”), Vol. 117, 1996, University of California, Institute of Industrial Relations
“District Reaction to Sexual Harassment Charges Threatens Faculty” Union Action, 1996
"Don't Push My (Political) Buttons CPER, April, 1995, Vol. No. 111, pp. 11-14
"Why Some Layoff Decisions are Negotiable" CPER, February, 1994, No. 104
"Takeover - The Demise of the Richmond Unified School District" CPER, Sept. 1991, No. 90
"Comments on Lenhert v. Ferris Faculty Association", CPER, Sept., 1991, No. 90
"Wrongful Discharge Theories Apply In The Public Sector" CELA Bulletin, April 1988, Vol. 2, No. 4
"Welcome to the Maze: Federal Preemption and Statute of Frauds Defenses in Wrongful Discharge Cases" CTLA Program Materials, January 1988.
"Forum: Wrongful Discharge in the Public Sector" CPER, Institute of Industrial Relations, University of California, No. 75, Dec. 1987.
"No-Fault Absenteeism Policies: A Critical View", CPER, Institute of Industrial Relations, University of California, No. 72, March 1987.
"Rights of Retired Public Employees", RPEA Newsletter, March/April 1987.
"Limiting Access to Non-Party Employees of an Employer", Labor and Employment Law Quarterly, State Bar of California, Vol. 5, No. 3, Fall 1986.
"The Fifty Percent Law: Time For Enforcement", CPER, Institute of Industrial Relations, University of California, Berkeley, Sept. 1985, No.66
California Continuing Education of the Bar, University of California, Damages in labor relations and employment cases (published 1983, 1982, 1980)
ALRB Unfair Labor Practice Manual, with Barry Bennett, Janice Johns, Myriam Chaumont, and Alison Colgan, 1976-77
ALRB Representation Case Manual, with Barry Bennett, Janice Johns, Myriam Chaumont, and Alison Colgan, 1976-77
Seminars and Speeches (partial list)
October 28, 2000, 18th Annual Meeting, Labor & Employment Law Section of the State Bar, Berkeley, CA - Speaker - Privacy and the Internet: Monitoring of employee electronic mail, surveillance, discovery of electronic data and related issues.
October 9, 1999, Conference on Intellectual Property, San Mateo Community College District, sponsored by AFT and AAUP - Speaker in Program on Professional Issues - “Collective Bargaining and Intellectual Property.”
October 23-24, 1998, Foothill-DeAnza Faculty Association, Annual Retreat, Asilomar, CA. - Organized and presented, “How to Decide Whether to Take a Case to Arbitration, and How to Win,” an interactive two-day workshop.
March, 1998, Conference of Faculty Organizations Conference, San Jose, CA. “Recent Issues in Labor Law.”
March, 1997, Conference of Faculty Organizations Conference, San Francisco, Ca., “Recent Issues in Labor Law.”
March 19, 1994, CCCI Conference, Santa Clara, "Recent Issues Affecting Community College Faculty"
February 28, 1994, Bay 10 Faculty Association Meeting Oakland, Ca, "Recent Issues Affecting Community College Faculty"
February 5, 1994 CFT-CTA-CCCI-FACC Part-Timer Conference, Diablo Valley College, "Recent Issues Involving Part-Time Faculty
February 8, 1992, Laney College, Oakland Community College Council, CFT, Part-Time Faculty Conference
Speech regarding rights of part-time faculty, including Cervisi, Fair Labor Standards Act, upgrading and affirmative action.
December 17, 1991, California Retired Teachers Association, Burlingame, CA Speech regarding rights of retired teachers to fully paid health benefits, explanation of vested rights, discussion of San Leandro and Contra Costa retiree litigation.
December 11, 1991, Seminar, Trying an Age Discrimination Case, for EEOC Litigation Branch, San Francisco, CA
April 20, 1991, CCCI (California Community Colleges Independent Faculty Associations) Meeting, South San Francisco, CA
Speech regarding upgrading and affirmative action, FLSA and other issues.
February 8, 1991, Community College Council Part-Time Faculty Meeting, Laney College, Oakland. Speech regarding various part-time teaching issues.
February 8, 1991, South San Francisco, CA, Unemployment Insurance Seminar, sponsored by Los Angeles County Office of Education and California Employment Development Department - unemployment benefits after Cervisi.
February 9, 1991, "Collective Bargaining Rights of Community College Faculty" CCI Conference, Laney College, Oakland, Ca.
October 27, 1990, Conference on Rights of Part-Time Faculty, sponsored by CFT/CCC, FACCC, CAT/CCA, CCCI and ASCCC, Laney College, Oakland, Ca. "Legal Rights of Part-Time Faculty"
Spring, 1990, Forum, University of California, Berkeley, "Sex Discrimination in Higher Education, the Jenny Harrison case," Pauley Ballroom, U.C. Berkeley "Emerging Labor Relations Issues in the Public Sector - Wrongful Termination" sponsored by Labor and Employment Law Section of the State Bar of California, May 13, 1988, San Francisco, CA
October, 1988, Community College Reform Conference, AFT sponsor, "A.B. 1725 and tenure rules", Westin Hotel, S.F. Airport.
"Bargaining - Negotiating a Labor Agreement - Preparing for Negotiations" presented for American Arbitration Association, San Mateo, California, June 13, 1988, with Michael Brailoff
Northern California Consortium for Affirmative Action Conference, "Discrimination and the Role of Affirmative Action Officers," sponsored by U. S. Department of Education, Office for Civil Rights, April 22, 1988, Sacramento, California
"Emerging Labor Relations Issues in the Public Sector - Wrongful Termination in the Public Sector - Exhaustion of Remedies and Other Procedures" San Francisco Four Seasons Clift Hotel, May 13, 1988, presented by the Labor and Employment Law Section of the State Bar of California, 1:30 - 4:15 p.m., with Joseph Wiley, Corbett & Kane, S.F.
"Labor Negotiations: Strategies and Techniques, for American Arbitration Association, Feb. 18, 1986, Sir Francis Drake Hotel, San Francisco, Topics: "Conducting Negotiations [Procedures and Mechanics], Strategies and Tactics]
"Witness Selection and Preparation", American Arbitration Association, May 30, 1984, workshop on "Case Preparation and Presentation, Oakland Airport Hilton.
American Arbitration Association stewards and managers training courses, 1980-1985.
San Francisco Community College District, training for stewards in Federal Labor Relations and
American Bar Association and UCLA, Private and Public Sector Labor Relations Conferences (1980-1982).
1999 California State Legislature, Assembly and Senate Education Committee Hearings on amending Education Code Section 87610.1, AB 1337
1997 California State Legislature, Hearings on Administrative and ordinary mandate, Senate Judiciary Committee
1996 California State Legislature, Hearings on Administrative and ordinary mandate, Senate Judiciary committee.
1988 State Bar Rules Revision Committee, San Francisco, Ca, presentation on rules regulating attorney contact with employees
1988 A.B. 1725 Education Law Revision Committee, San Mateo, Ca. Testimony on tenure and community colleges.
Merritt and Laney Colleges, Peralta Community College District, 1987-1988, 1988-89, Instructor in Collective Bargaining, Public and Private Sector Labor Relations, Employment Law.
Seminar, Jefferson Elementary School District, District Headquarters, Daly City, CA, 1989, "Child Abuse Reporting Act requirements for Teachers, Counselors and School Administrators." [qualified for faculty in-service training credit]
Seminar [with Katherine Thomson] Yuba Faculty Association, 11/23/91, Oakland Airport Hilton Hotel, "Grievance Handling Workshop" [qualified for flex time credit, Yuba College]
College of Marin - "Flex Workshop" (In-service training for faculty and administrators) March 7, 1996 (1:00 p.m. - 4:00 p.m.) Sexual Harrassment - Faculty Rights and Duties
Counsel to A.B. 3409 Task Force on Faculty and Administrator Qualifications, Hiring, Evaluation and Retention, 1986-1988, led to adoption of A.B.1725, reforming California Community Colleges.
Associations and Organizations
American Bar Association, Labor and Employment Section, Litigation Section
California Bar Association, Labor and Employment Section
California Employment Lawyers Association
San Francisco and Alameda County Bar Associations
Alameda County Bar Association Legislation Committee (Labor and Employment Law) 1993-1995
Member, Advisory Committee, California Public Employment Relations Board
Late 1970's to present:
AFL-CIO Lawyers Coordinating Committee
Admissions to Practice
Admitted to practice in all California courts, Northern and Eastern Federal District Court, Federal Court of Appeals, 9th Circuit, and US Supreme Court. (Admitted to California State Bar on January 8, 1974.)