The Peak Dems leadership has always had a good relationship with the unions in El Paso County. It is, and always was, a reciprocal relationship where they worked for Dem candidates and causes and we supported their causes as well. Norm Pledger worked so hard for Dem candidates and was such a support to the El Paso County Dem Party, that in 2009, the party leadership then decided to name an award after him. We have also worked closely with the postal workers, teachers, plumbers & pipefitters, sheet metal workers, firefighters, IBEW, telegraph workers and the Labor Council.
At our Gala in 2011, Southern Colorado Labor Council purchased 4 or 6 seats. Sitting with them was the State Executive Director of the AFL/CIO who came to our dinner every year. When the dinner began, after a long cocktail hour, two members of that table noticed that Chuck Murphy was getting the Norm Pledger Lifetime Achievement Award. They threatened to leave if we did not change the program and threatened to disrupt the program so that the award would not be given. The Chair of the Party and the dinner, tried to explain the situation and begged them to stay and promised we could talk about this the following week. Despite our pleading with them to stay, they did indeed leave the dinner much to the leadership’s disappointment because these were our friends.
Following the event, Christy LeLait met with their leadership team and Norm Pledger. Norm understood why Chuck Murphy was given the award. It was decided then that the leadership of Peak Dems and their leadership team would work closer together to strengthen the relationship to benefit all.
IMPORTANT NOTE: The Norm Pledger Award for Lifetime Achievement is named for people who have done great things for the Democratic Party, as Norm Pledger had done. It is not awarded to someone who has done good things for unions.
We believed that year as we do today, that Chuck Murphy has done great things his whole adult life for the Democratic Party wherever he has lived. We honor and acknowledge the great things he has done for the party here in Colorado Springs. He never hid his political leanings for the benefit of his business, and when he started his business it was a very brave thing to do because businessmen, especially in development and real estate, were Republicans. However, Chuck always held true to his Democratic values and “raised hell” and money for Dem causes and candidates in our city and the state. That is exactly what this award is meant to celebrate!!
Chuck and his family have given us buses to go to rallies, marches, state conventions; he rented us space for many years below market value, and held his own fundraisers for Democratic candidates and contributed generously to their campaigns. In fact, Chuck Murphy was a generous supporter monetarily for our current chair’s campaign for county commissioner.
Also, Chuck Murphy has good relations with many unions throughout the state and is not “anti-union.”
As far as the El Paso County Democratic Party, we continued to work with the unions after the one unfortunate incident. We held our Central Committee meetings at the Plumbers and Pipefitters union hall twice a year and this same union let us use the hall for the important recall campaign for John Morse in 2013. Many union workers manned the phones and walked for John Morse. There were many events at that Union Hall (so the Dems event this year at the IBEW was only one of many events the Peak Dems have had in union halls). Our Block Parties, our very low-cost fundraiser we held every year, was attended by many folks of all professions, union and non-union, and several times union men helped us grill. After Kathleen asked the first time if Mike Callicrate would donate the beef the first time, he continued to donate to future Block Parties.
Kathleen spoke at the Workers Rights rally in 2011. Christy presented yearly trainings for the new sheet metal apprentices in Denver. Kathleen belonged to the union all her years as a teacher. Peak Dems supported the postal workers when their Saturday delivery was threatened and attended those rallies.
Also, we had a union leader as 2nd Vice Chair for one term and several union people as precinct chairs and Central Committee people.
It is unfortunate and unprofessional that an Indy reporter would write an article on the Peak Dems past leadership’s relationship to the unions and not interview ONE member of the past leadership team. It is inexcusable to use one incident (as recalled incorrectly by one person) and not interview the two Peak Dem leaders who were responsible for the night. Not only was it a misrepresentation of our relationships with the unions, it was also an affront to the personal values and commitment both Christy and Kathleen have to unions — listen to the YouTube video if you doubt the veracity of the strong belief Christy and Kathleen have for the unions and what they have done for our country.
We are glad that the current leadership of the El Paso County Dem Party is committed to continuing our long tradition of supporting unions in our community, with them in turn supporting us. By no means is this new for Dem leadership, because it has been a long-standing commitment and the new Peak Dems are following in our footsteps and we support that.
— Christy LeLait, Former Executive Director, El Paso County Democratic Party, 2010-2015, and
Kathleen S. Ricker, Ph.D., Immediate Past Chair of El Paso County Democratic Party, 2011-2017, Ksricker@gmail.com
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