Los Angeles Times



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 arrests.

"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 now."

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.


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