Rod Sullivan, Supervisor, Johnson County, Iowa

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October 4, 2010

Sullivan’s Salvos 8/31/10

In this edition:

*Happy Labor Day!
*Fry Fest
*Go Hawks!
*Did You Know?

*Happy Labor Day!
I have had several requests to reprint the following piece, which first appeared in Salvos in 2007. As a side note, Marian Sullivan passed away last Christmas. Once again, I dedicate this piece in her memory.

Monday marks Labor Day. Every year, I write the same piece, noting the good that organized labor has done for this country.

This year, I have decided to go a different route. I would like to explain what organized labor has done for me personally. I give you – my family story. This is the story of Tom and Marian (Pint) Sullivan. It is also the story of the American Dream.

Tom Sullivan grew up near the small Iowa town of Elma, one of 13 children, not counting the half-dozen children his mother lost. They were very poor. Tom was forced to go to work very young, and quit school around the 4th grade. He had tremendous familial responsibilities for a ten year old. Like most Americans of the day, he worked on the farm. But the times were very challenging. As he aged, Tom had any number of odd jobs in order to supplement his income; hired man, ditch digger, bouncer, bartender – just about any work would do. A huge man for his day, Tom even entered tough man competitions, wrestling or fighting a passing barnstormer in the hopes of making a buck.

Marian Pint had a big family, too. They might have been even poorer than the Sullivans. Marian always got something for Christmas, but to say the gifts were modest is an understatement. One year she received a doll handmade from cornhusks; another year it was a piece of citrus fruit. After high school, Marian went to work. Marian made a ridiculously low wage; I seem to recall her mentioning making less than a dollar a day. She was working in a general store when she met Tom, who had a second job cutting and delivering ice.

Tom and Marian were married, and tried to begin a life on the farm. Farming during the Depression was simply not working out; Tom and Marian could not afford to buy any land, so rents ate up all their income. When their first child (my father) was born, they had neither electricity nor running water. Life was hard for the Sullivans, but not any more difficult than it was for tens of millions of Americans of the day.

Finally, they had had enough. A couple hours to the south, Cedar Rapids offered a new beginning. World War II had just begun, and industry was taking off in Cedar Rapids. Anybody who was willing to work, regardless of race or gender, could join a labor union. Tom joined Carpenter’s Local 308; Marian united with many other women in the workforce and joined the United Food and Commercial Worker’s Local at Wilson’s Meatpacking.

The Carpenter’s Union struggled during the Depression. Even afterward, some carpenters felt they had a better chance of getting work being non-union. But Tom knew it was more important to join his peers, and compete on a level playing field. Alone, carpenters could be gouged or cheated. Together, they would be treated fairly.

Soon the War ended, and prosperity arrived. Hard work was paying off. The Sullivans were able to buy a house, a car, and put their kids through Catholic school. They didn’t get a television right away, but because Tom was willing to put an antenna on the roof next door, he got to go to the neighbors to watch pro wrestling.

By the 70s, they had even saved enough to make a once-in-a-lifetime trip to Hawaii. While the trip was nice, it was bittersweet. Tom had saved for years so he could visit the gravesite of his younger brother (and Best Man) George. George Sullivan, US Navy, perished aboard the USS Arizona on December 7, 1941.

Despite decades of newfound wealth, not everything was perfect. Years of hard work caused Tom’s body to break down. His last years were spent using a wheelchair. Marian still suffers from repetitive motion injuries. The UFCW union was busted at Wilson’s, and Marian’s pension and health insurance never quite lived up to their promises.

So, what is their legacy? Tom and Marian pulled their family from poverty to the middle class. They lived the American Dream. Every one of their grandkids had healthcare coverage. Every one of their grandkids had the opportunity to get a college education. Every one of their grandkids had the kinds of opportunities many Americans have come to expect, but much of the world can only dream about.

So how did Tom & Marian Sullivan pull this off? Yes, they worked hard. But so did most Americans. Tom and Marian made this all happen because they joined the organized labor movement.

They never did anything alone; they did it through solidarity. They were special people, but not unique. There are millions of stories just like theirs, and none of the characters are unique. You did not need to be the best or the brightest; you simply needed to join up and work hard. If you did, the rewards were there.

There have always been the rich and the poor. But a large middle class is a relatively new phenomenon. Organized labor created the middle class, not just in Iowa, but all across this nation. Organized labor gave me the life I enjoy today. That is why my Grandparents were union. That is why my Dad was union. That is why I am union.

Nobody ever does it alone. We all do it together. United we stand, divided we fall. Today, and on Labor Day, I honor my Grandma and Grandpa Sullivan. And I honor their brothers and sisters in the labor movement.

Thank you Grandma & Grandpa. And thank you all. Happy Labor Day!

*Fry Fest
Celebrate the successful 2009-2010 seasons and immerse yourself in a sea of black and gold at the World’s Largest Hawkeye Tradeshow and Tailgate Party. Come meet many of the honored 1960 and 1985 Big Ten Champion teams, both of whom will be celebrating important anniversaries. Become a part of history and “shake it all about” when we attempt to break the Guinness World Record for largest organized Hokey Pokey Dance! The current world record was set in 2003 in Toronto, Canada with 4,431 participants and we are challenging YOU to beat it!

Last but certainly not least…as we gear up for the start of the 2010 Hawkeye football season, finish your FRYday off with an outdoor concert with Iowa favorites, The Nadas, and national headliner, Three Dog Night!

See for more info! Go Hawks!

*Go Hawks!
The Iowa Hawkeye football team kicks the season off this Saturday as they play host to Eastern Illinois.

I have noted before how much I love Hawkeye athletics. I don’t write much about it, because I figure folks can read about it many other places.

That said, allow me to offer just a few thoughts:

1. For those of you who are NOT fans… Hawkeye football really helps the local economy! What’s more, a successful season improves the whole mood countywide! Please bear with us, non-fans!

2. For those of you who ARE fans… careful with those expectations! The line between 11-2 and 7-6 is a thin one, indeed. Last year was special; it may not happen every year. Please support the Hawks regardless of the outcome.

3. For all of us… football season adds traffic, drunks, spirit, visitors, and many other things to the Iowa City stew. Some things are great, others are not. Please be as tolerant as you can, and be considerate of others.

There is only one thing left to say! GO HAWKS!

*DID YOU KNOW? The wealthiest 1% of the US population controls 43% of all US wealth. The poorest 80% controls only 7% of all wealth. (Source: Editorial comment - What would Jesus say?

Anyone interested in learning more about County government should take a look at the County website-

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As always, feel free to contact me at 354-7199 or I look forward to serving you!



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