Unless You Are With The Union, You Are Alone.

Originally published February 2013

by Tom Sullivan

I would like to once again thank everyone for the kind words and thoughts that were expressed to me and my family through the cards that were passed around the workroom floor this past July and delivered to us shortly thereafter. Those of you who personally took the time to send a card expressing your own comments I know took a lot of courage to do as well as those who found the strength to come to Alex’s viewing or funeral. Simple words cannot express how much I appreciated those acts.

From day one of this ordeal my Union has been standing next to me and my family to lend any support or comfort that we needed. While I sat in the common area of Gateway HS on 7/20 waiting to be given the worst news that any parent could ever get, that your child was dead, my Union was with me. Our local president sat in the parking lot calling me to see what she could do and telling me that calls from around the state and country were coming in to her to ask what could be done.

Cards and letters began to come to my house on that first Monday and the first one I opened was from my Union brothers and sisters in the state of Washington who offered condolences and a check. Those cards and checks from Unions across the country continued for weeks.

The national clerk craft director Rob Strunk came out from DC to be with us at Alex’s viewing, funeral and burial. He also was at my house several times including Alex’s wake where in pure Irish fashion we toasted him with stories and Jamison until the wee hours of the morning.

I was invited to attend a memorial service in LA prior to this years national convention for Alex and I also addressed the convention after a moment of silence for not only Alex but all those that our Union had lost since it last convened. That was a true honor.

Absent in their support was my employer the Aurora Post Office. I worked in Aurora for 26+ years, originally assigned to the Main office when it was on Dayton St. then was part of the group that opened the new main on Buckley/Alameda. I am not a new hire. You would be hard pressed to find someone in the city who at least didn’t know my name. Alex worked as a bartender in Aurora for years and when people at his bar would talk about the PO he would always chime in that his dad worked at the PO and when asked who he was he told them Tom Sullivan. It always got some kind of groan of recognition.

While my family and I worked our way through this tragedy I saw the outpouring of support that people are capable of. My wife’s supervisor and a co-worker were with her all day 7/20 inside Gateway HS while we awaited word. My daughter works at a public relations company who nearly shut down to help us through the media requests. Our picture was on the front page of 97 major newspaper in the US and we were getting 70-80 interview requests the first 10 days. Megan’s employer handled every one of those calls. Not a single one of those calls came from my employer, the Aurora Post Office

My house was filled to overflow by family, friends, neighbors and co-workers who came over to help in any way or to offer us a word of support. I know now how hard that was for many when you certainly don’t know what to say, but every time just to see a friend was often all we needed. No words had to be expressed maybe just a hug or holding our hand was all we needed. No one from my employer ever came to my house, even though many of them knew my son. He had helped move furniture when a station manager re-married, twice, still no one person from Aurora management could come to my home to offer condolences.

The President of this USA took time out his schedule to sit down next to me and my mother to ask us to tell him about Alex. This was my mother’s only grandson yet no one from Aurora management could take the time to either let me know that things would get better or to ask how I was doing and if they could help.

I know that we have all lost someone during our lives be it a parent or sibling and a select few are part of this group who have lost a child. I would never expect them to do more than what they have to do and most times I have found that they will do the least they can. This was different.

I lost my father 3 years ago, my wife lost both her parents in the past 8 years and as much as that affected us and hurt we were allowed to work through that pain in a private manner. Remembering a birthday or the day they passed – we can do in our own way. When we lost Alex the world became aware.

Stories in the paper and on every network went on for several weeks. Court cases started, a family is suing the theater, people are upset about how the donated money is spent and a theater is re-opening. All of this is going on and we just had a series of 6 month anniversary stories. We are reminded of our loss in a very public way every time one of these come up and we have yet to really be able to do this in private.

I will say when all these stories come out I will get a call from my Union brothers and sisters. A card may just show up at of the blue letting me know that they are thinking of me. Still after all this time I still have not heard from my employer.

My point that must be clear to everyone is that in this work environment we are faced with today at this post office, if you are not with your Union you are alone. When the worst mass shooting in American history takes place just miles from our Main office and one of its employees in right in the middle of it and is effected by it and loses a child our employer can’t see the human side to their employees and act in a humane and civil way.

I saw first hand how people and employers/companies/governments can act in times of great suffering. The way I was treated by my local employer was, to put it mildly, disgusting. I should have been treated better as we all should in our daily dealings with local management. I, though, did have a chance to voice my concerns when I received a call from PGM Donahoe and after he expressed his condolences for the loss of Alex I told him what a disease I thought his management team in Aurora was to the efforts he was making in DC to keep the PO relevant in today’s business world. Change takes time and effort so we will have to continue to fight the fight.

Thanks again for all your help and support not only through the difficult times this past summer but also during my entire time here at the Aurora PO. Our loss will continue to be posted by the local and national media so you should be able to keep track of me. I have also been asked to be on an advisory board by COVA for a memorial to be built in the future plus I have talked with the governor several times and I’ve asked him if he ever needed my help to just ask. He said he may take me up on that someday. Stay strong.