Los Angeles Times

Orange County Edition

 

 

PROTESTERS IN L.A. ALLEGE UNION ELECTION FRAUD;

 

LABOR: THIRTY MEMBERS OF LABORERS LOCAL 652 IN SANTA ANA CONTEND THAT BUSINESS MANAGER INTIMIDATED VOTERS AND FAILED TO SEND OUT ENOUGH BALLOTS.

 

NATIONAL OFFICIALS DISCOUNT THE CHARGES.

 

By MICHAEL FLAGG, TIMES STAFF WRITER

October 8, 1993

 

 

Thirty members of a laborers union local from Orange County picketed the union's district office here Thursday over a bitter election they contend was stolen.

 

The national leaders of the Laborers' International Union of North America say they have looked into the complaint of election fraud at Santa Ana's Local 652, found it groundless and rejected an appeal.

 

On the sidewalk of a busy street near Los Angeles International Airport, the protesters Thursday waved signs and chanted in English and Spanish: "What we want is justice!"

 

In the June election, three union members challenged Marcelino (Matchy) Duarte for the top job of business manager at Local 652, Orange County's oldest predominantly Latino labor union.

 

The candidates alleged that Duarte -- who has run the union for 15 years -- is corrupt. Duarte strongly denies it.

 

The campaign last spring and winter was punctuated by a fistfight between Duarte and a dissident and a skirmish when the results were announced.

 

Because Duarte's three opponents split the vote, he beat his closest challenger by 150 votes.

 

Laborers are construction workers who do relatively unskilled tasks such as digging trenches and mixing cement.

 

Opponents say Duarte intimidated voters; that his supporters campaigned on union time and that he didn't send ballots to at least 150 of the union's 4,000 members.

 

In August, the general executive board of the Laborers' International Union of North America met at La Costa Resort and Spa in San Diego County and said it could not substantiate any of the allegations.

 

"The election and the count were conducted in a fair and effective manner," the union's top official said in a letter to Crispin Perez of Anaheim, the candidate who came closest to beating Duarte.

 

The protesters' appeals within the union have been exhausted, so they have taken the next step: going to the U.S. Labor Department, which investigates complaints about union elections.

 

It is unusual for laborers' union elections to be appealed so far and for so long, say union officials. But, the protesters say, they'll continue until the election is overturned.

 

"When you lose, you lose -- you gotta be realistic," Perez said while walking the picket line. "But when you see all the things they did to steal the election. . . ."

 

The national union says it did the best it could of investigating the allegations and denies it gave them short shrift.

 

"To the extent our general executive board does investigations, it felt the protesters didn't prove their case," said Kenneth Casarez, a regional union officer in Sacramento.

 

"We continue to have a dialogue with them."


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