Charlotte, N.C. • A generally festive but sleep-deprived group of Utah Democrats gathered on the last day of the national convention Thursday to memorialize Jim Judd, the state’s most visible union leader, who died last month from injuries suffered in a motorcycle crash.
Judd, 60, the vice chairman of the Utah Democrats, had planned to be among them, just like every president of the state chapter of the AFL-CIO has for the past 30 years.
And the Utahns who did make it to the convention felt his absence throughout the week.
"It is hard to be here without him and we’ll always be conscious of all the gifts and all the memories we have had with him," said Brian Faulkner, a union leader from Murray. He said it’s the job of Judd’s friends to continue to promote organized labor in a state that is not always hospitable to unions.
"We’re an aggregate, a sum total of all of our experiences, and Jim has made an indelible impression," he said. "We are going to go forward. We will keep fighting the fight."
Elizabeth Shuler, secretary-treasurer of the national AFL-CIO, joined the Utah Democrats to honor Judd.
"Jim was such a courageous leader," she said. "He really spoke out for workers in a way that was unique and special. Often people think of the labor movement as sort of in your face and confrontational, and Jim was actually a consensus builder and a collaborator."
She appreciated that Judd organized a rally in Utah to support the labor movement in Wisconsin as it fought with the GOP governor over changes to state employees’ pension program and other benefits.
Shuler appeared at the request of Wayne Holland, the former state party leader who is an international labor representative. He’s now working extensively to promote President Barack Obama in Colorado.
"It is a special day for us to honor Jim Judd who has been there for many, many decades fighting the fight on our level that President Obama has been fighting nationally," he said.
State party Chairman Jim Dabakis hasn’t known Judd as long as some in the delegation but said they formed a fast bond and a warm friendship, and he greatly misses Judd’s counsel on state politics.
"The loss is dramatic."
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