Organized labor's most influential Los Angeles leader apparently suffered a fatal heart attack late Friday. Contreras suffered from type 2 diabetes; most media sources put his age at 52, but the Daily News reported he was 53 at the time of his death at Daniel Freeman Hospital in Inglewood. Contreras grew up in Dinuba and had been a teenage activist for Cesar Chavez's United Farm Workers union. He came to Los Angeles in the 1980s as an organizer for the Hotel Employees and Restaurant Employees Union. His wife, Maria Elena Durazo, is currently president of that union's Local 11. Contreras became executive secretary-treasurer of the Los Angeles County Federation of Labor AFL-CIO in 1996 and is credited with reviving the local labor movement as a social and political force. He was a close personal friend of Antonio Villaraigosa and supported his bid for mayor in 2001, but after Jim Hahn won Contreras aligned with the new mayor and took an appointment on the Airport Commission. His organization is supporting Hahn's reelection, and the mayor released a statement Friday night:
"The working men and women of Los Angeles have had no greater champion than Miguel Contreras. Today, I lost a friend, and our nation lost a remarkable leader."
* Villaraigosa statement on Saturday: "Miguel Contreras dedicated his life to Los Angeles and its workers. He built a movement for working families that will be his legacy. The relationship I had with Miguel went beyond politics and beyond organizing. I have lost a brother. Los Angeles has lost one of its brightest and most passionate leaders. My prayers are with Maria Elena and her children."