Michael S. Bernick

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Michael S. Bernick
Born (1952-10-01) October 1, 1952 (age 63)
Nationality American
Alma mater Harvard University (B.A., 1974); Oxford University (Balliol College, B. Phil. 1976); University of California, Berkeley (J.D. 1979)
Known for Director of California’s Employment Development Department, 1999-2004
Author of a series of writings on employment and job training written from the practitioner experience
Director of the BART transit system
Website www.sedgwicklaw.com/michael-s-bernick/

Michael S. Bernick (born October 1, 1952) is an American lawyer. He served as Director of California’s labor department, the Employment Development Department (EDD) from 1999 to 2004. He is a practitioner and theorist of job training and employment strategies. In a series of articles and books written during the 1980s and 1990s, drawing on his experience in community job training, he argues against the then-expanding social welfare system. He sets out alternative strategies of inner city entrepreneurship and market-based training and job ladders. In the 2000s, his practice and writing turned to worker retraining and reemployment strategies, including a series of local job training projects targeting displaced workers in California. Today, he is also active in developing local training projects for workers with autism and other neurodiverse conditions.

Early life and education[edit]

Bernick grew up in Los Angeles through Fairfax High School, and attended Harvard University (B.A. 1974), Oxford University (Balliol College, B. Phil. 1976) and the University of California, Berkeley Law School (J.D. 1979).


After graduating from law school, he spent much of the next seven years as executive director of the San Francisco Renaissance Center, a community job training agency that operated a series of literacy and vocational training classes, an early welfare to work program, and five business ventures providing transitional employment. In 1986 Bernick went into private law practice but remained a board member of several community job training agencies until being appointed EDD Director in 1999. Following the recall of California Governor Gray Davis, Bernick returned to law at the Sedgwick firm in San Francisco, and joined the Milken Institute as a fellow in employment policy. He continues to be active with several community job training agencies and work force intermediaries in California and with the Autism Job Club.

Criticism of the Welfare State, and Developing Market-Oriented Job Creation and Training[edit]

In the early 1980s, Bernick began a series of articles and books on job training and employment, written from the viewpoint of the practitioner. The Dreams of Jobs (1982) reviews the job training programs in San Francisco from 1960 to 1980, and was followed a few years later by Urban Illusions (1986), covering job training experiences at the Renaissance Center.[1]

Bernick was an early proponent of what became welfare reform under President Bill Clinton,[2] and of market-based approaches to vocational and literacy training.[3] He also argued for strategies of inner city entrepreneurship[4] and inner city loan funds.[5]

After becoming EDD Director in 1999, Bernick continued to write about training strategies, particularly job ladders for low wage workers[6] and employment for workers with disabilities.[7] His 2006 book, Job Training That Gets Results is an attempt to summarize lessons learned from the job training programs of the past 50 years. It contains the themes of market-oriented training and entrepreneurship, along with the professionalization of the low wage workforces, role of extra-governmental entities, and restructuring of government social services structures.[8]

Worker Retraining and Reemployment Strategies in Response to Job Losses[edit]

After leaving EDD in 2004, Bernick’s practice and writing turned to worker retraining and reemployment strategies. In twice-monthly California employment postings dating from early 2009 for the website Fox & Hounds, he has chronicled the large scale job losses in California employment during the Great Recession[9] and the transformation of California industries. In essays for Zocalo Public Square and other journals, he has examined a range of employment issues: the breakdown in full-time employment and rise of alternative forms of employment,[10] the projected growth of the “non-knowledge economy,”[11] the evolving forms of job placement,[12] policies that restrict job creation,[13] crowdfunding and anti-poverty impacts,[14] and why most approaches today to wage inequality are ineffective.[15]

As a practictioner, Bernick joined with workforce intermediaries and businesses in designing worker retraining for growth occupations in engineering, health care, and information technology. He has designed re-employment projects, utilizing the emerging internet job search and sorting tools.

The Autism Job Club[edit]

Bernick has been involved since 2004 in a series of projects involving adults on the autistic spectrum. He was part of teams developing programs for persons with autism at California State University East Bay and at William Jessup University.[16] He helped develop The Specialists Guild, employing persons with autism in software testing, and the Autism Job Club, for building extra-governmental autism employment networks.[17] In March 2015, The Autism Job Club: The Neurodiverse Workforce in the New Normal of Employment, was published, setting out individual and collective strategies for increasing employment among adults on the autistic spectrum.[18]

Transit Village Movement[edit]

In 1988 Bernick was elected to the board of directors of the Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART) rail system and soon began to note the lack of land development linked to rail. With UC Berkeley Professor Robert Cervero, he established a research center at UC Berkeley focused on the link of land use and transit, and together they published a series of articles leading to their 1996 book, Transit Villages in the 21st Century.[19] The book helped to develop and popularize the transit village concept.


Veteran Bay Area investigative reporters Matier & Ross wrote in the San Francisco Chronicle in June 1996 that the newly elected BART Director Michael Bernick "accepted campaign contributions from BART contractors". And "excerpts of a federal wire tap [released in connection with indictments] showed that Bernick regularly talked to contractors about extending a deal for them at the same time they were helping to raise campaign contributions for his re-election." [20]

California State Library Collection of Writings[edit]

In October 2015, the California State Library opened a collection of Bernick's writings and papers.[21] The Collection includes over 200 articles by Bernick covering 35 years, as well as background material on his five books and two additional book projects-The Jobs Perplex and Real Work. The main section focuses on job training and employment strategies. The collection also includes sections on the transit village movement in California, autism employment and inclusion, California government, and the long distance running sub-culture of Southern California.


  1. ^ The Dreams of Jobs (Olympus, 1982) ISBN 978-0-913420-48-5; Urban Illusions (Praeger, 1986) ISBN 978-0-275-92804-9
  2. ^ “How Welfare Can Work”, Washington Monthly, Sept. 1985
  3. ^ “Illiteracy and Inner City Unemployment”, Phi Delta Kappan, Jan 1986; “The Truth About Job Training Programs”, Journal of Contemporary Studies, Winter 1984.
  4. ^ “Business in the Inner City”, Harvard Business Review, November–December 1984
  5. ^ “The New Inner City Loan Funds”, Planning, September 1986
  6. ^ “To Rise Above, Upgrading the Skills of the Under-Employed”, Milken Institute Review, 2001
  7. ^ “Making Work Pay—For the Disabled Too”, Milken Institute Review, Fourth Quarter 2003
  8. ^ Job Training That Gets Results: 10 Principles of Effective Employment Programs (Upjohn Institute, 2006) ISBN 978-0-88099-280-0
  9. ^ "Michael Bernick - Fox&Hounds". Fox&Hounds. Retrieved 28 July 2015. 
  10. ^ http://www.zocalopublicsquare.org/2012/04/29/were-all-temps-now/chronicles/who-we-were/; and “Huge Job Creation, Destruction Requires Adaptation by Employment Lawyers,” Daily Journal, August 11, 2006, “The Future of Bay Area Employment”, San Francisco Chronicle Sunday Insight, Sept. 27, 2009
  11. ^ "Reality-TV workers show way to better economy". San Francisco Chronicle. Retrieved 28 July 2015. 
  12. ^ "Zócalo Public Square :: Five Ways to Get a Job in California". Zocalo Public Square +. Retrieved 28 July 2015. 
  13. ^ "Zócalo Public Square :: Let’s Stop Making It Hard to Create Jobs". Zocalo Public Square +. Retrieved 28 July 2015. 
  14. ^ "San Francisco's end of cool? Nonsense". San Francisco Chronicle. Retrieved 28 July 2015. 
  15. ^ "Zócalo Public Square :: Wanna Fix California’s Wage Inequality?". Zocalo Public Square +. Retrieved 28 July 2015. 
  16. ^ San Francisco Chronicle; Aug. 4, 2009 (12 December 2012). "College for autistics". csueastbay.edu. Retrieved 28 July 2015. 
  17. ^ "Zócalo Public Square :: The Autism Job Club". Zocalo Public Square +. Retrieved 28 July 2015. 
  18. ^ The Autism Job Club: The Neurodiverse Workforce in the New Normal of Employment (Skyhorse, 2015) ISBN 978-1632206961
  19. ^ Transit Villages in the 21st Century (McGraw Hill, 1996) ISBN 978-0-07-005475-2.
  20. ^ "BART Director Reveals New Instance of Potential Conflict". SFGate. Retrieved 28 July 2015. 
  21. ^ "Collection of Writings and Papers by Michael Bernick". California State Library.