June 20, 1993
Marcelino (Matchy) Duarte renewed his control
of Orange County's oldest Latino labor union Saturday when the
61-year old former plaster worker won election to a sixth term
as the organization's business director, according to union members.
A public reading of the election results,
however, sparked a brawl inside the Chestnut Street union hall,
with members and candidates exchanging blows and throwing chairs.
"It was a very, very nasty scene,"
said Louie Holguin, one of Duarte's three opponents in the Laborers
International Union election. "I saw a person walking out
with his head bleeding. All of it broke out as soon as the results
were read. I got out of there. Any sane person would have left."
Police said they were called three or four
times to Local 652 headquarters during the evening but made no
"Chairs were flying all over the place,"
said George Garcia, who failed in his bid for the post of secretary
treasurer. "You name it, it happened. Everybody thinks the
election was rigged."
Said one janitor who asked not to be named:
"There was a little blood, some fighting, but it's all over
The voting and its apparently volatile result
followed a bitter power struggle that has garnered little attention
outside of Santa Ana's Latino neighborhoods.
For Durate, who beat back the challenges
of Holguin, David Hernandez and Chris Perez, the vote also represents
a total sweep for his running mates and guarantees three more
years at the controls of the 4,000-member labor organization.
The final vote tally showed that Durate received
721 votes; Perez, 571; Holguin, 560; and Hernandez, 214.
The election night fight is consistent with
the tenor of a nasty campaign in which Durate and one of his opponents
exchanged blows last January. All three opponents for the top
post have leveled various charges of corruption at Durate's administration,
and some dissidents have picketed their own union hall carrying
signs reading "Down With Corruption."
Local 652, which represents manual laborers,
has fallen on difficult times because of a steep decline in the
real estate market. The union has experienced a recent decline
in membership, while the campaign has focused attention on the
need for leadership to find additional work for its members.
Duarte could not be reached for comment Saturday
night, but Holguin said he would immediately throw his support
behind Durate in an effort to unify the organization.
"There is a lot of work to do,"
Holguin said. "There are no hard feelings on my behalf. I
did something that had to be done. I wish him a lot of luck."
Garcia believed that unhappy members, including
many of those who displayed their anger after the election, would
try to live with the results.
"Unfortunately, we will stand by the
decision," he said.