Image Union: The Other M.J.

Documentary about an African American man named Michael Johnson, who works on the floor crew at United Center, the home of the Chicago Bulls. (The title refers to this connection between the subject and basketball star Michael Jordan.) Johnson struggles to make ends meet on a minimum wage job amidst the pomp and circumstance of the 1996 Democratic National Convention. Through his candid reflections, one sees the struggle of many workers across the country as they are faced with limited employment options, no benefits, and no room for advancement. Some of the original footage was used in a program called "None of the Above," which investigated Americas non-voters.

0:00Copy video clip URL Bars and tone, slate with count-in.

0:46Copy video clip URL Image Union opening.

1:28Copy video clip URL Bob introduces tape by Tom Weinberg.

1:49Copy video clip URL The Other M.J.: Michael Johnson. Johnson is a janitor at the United Center, and we meet him during the 1996 Democratic National Convention. Skip Blumberg interviews. Johnson expresses disillusionment with the democratic system, and says he has never voted.

2:56Copy video clip URL Johnson at “El” stop. He says he is grateful to have a job. He says he has learned how to spend his leisure time wisely since his job is very strenuous. He plays basketball most days after work.

4:01Copy video clip URL Johnson at home talking about having six kids and trying to take them out on the weekends. He is 34 now, and was 18 when he had his first child.

5:01Copy video clip URL Johnson at work, talking about how much money he earns. He doesn’t get any benefits because they only let him work 32 hours a week.

5:55Copy video clip URL Johnson says that Cook County Hospital is the only place he could go if he got sick. He says this is why he tries to stay in shape.

6:20Copy video clip URL MJ says he loves sports and it helps him relieve the stress of work. He says before he got his job he was unemployed since he was taking care of his sick mother. He was on disability pay before for alcoholism. He then reveals a history of drug use.

8:36Copy video clip URL MJ explains that after his mother died, he got separated from his wife, which was an extremely rough time for him. He says it was very hard for him to be away from his kids and his mother.

10:02Copy video clip URL MJ shows us his tattoo “IBM.” That is his nickname, but he also has always wanted to work for IBM. He talks about starting many different types of job training, but not following through. He says that after he was nominated for an employee award, he has become very motivated and never misses work.

11:19Copy video clip URL Shots from the ’96 convention. MJ says that the convention brought about a lot of jobs for the area.

11:51Copy video clip URL Driving with MJ. He says they are tearing down all of the projects they are passing, but building more prisons.

12:36Copy video clip URL MJ says there was no real training for the job. He says his nephew owns a cleaning service, and that’s how he got his job at the United Center.

13:16Copy video clip URL MJ says everyone he grew up with is either dead, in jail, or on drugs. He says he never goes back to his old neighborhood now. He says the North Side is like another world to him. We go with him on the train home. He talks about the neighborhood he moved to. He says he lives in the roughest part of the North Side, but that it is Kiddie Land compared to where he comes from. He lives in Cabrini Green after he and his former wife were evicted from a home on the West Side.

16:09Copy video clip URL MJ cleaning. He says that he has been working at the United Center for six months, which is good experience for him to find a better job. He wants to eventually own his own business. He is not worried about saving for retirement because he doesn’t think he’ll live that long. He says he doesn’t make enough money to save, or at least it’s not worth it.

18:08Copy video clip URL MJ on phone with ex-wife. Her company has gone bankrupt and now she is unemployed. She was about to buy a house, but now she can’t afford to move out of Cabrini Green.

19:08Copy video clip URL MJ gets a page from one of his kids. Today is his daughter’s birthday, so he has plans with her. He wraps a present for her. Her name is Sheila, after his sister who was stabbed and killed.

20:26Copy video clip URL He mentions seeing Ted Kennedy that day.

20:43Copy video clip URL Jesse Jackson on stage at convention. MJ says that he is definitely a Democrat, he just hasn’t voted because he doesn’t relate to any of the white politicians who don’t know what life is like in the projects.

21:36Copy video clip URL MJ with his daughter and her friends. They go to Wendy’s and he gives her some presents. He gives her a new backpack and a keyboard.

24:09Copy video clip URL MJ says he has given up on “40 acres and a mule” and the good life, and is just trying to survive.

24:36Copy video clip URL MJ update, 1999. Tom Weinberg interviews. Johnson says he has moved to a new place, he has a new car, changed to full time work, and now is a grandfather. He now gets benefits, and seems to be very happy with his current life. His 16-year old daughter is the one who just gave birth. He says his life is relatively similar now, but a little better. He talks about Clinton’s impeachment and about Michael Jordan retiring. He talks about the effect of seeing himself on TV. He says that today is MLK day and he relates a quote by King.

27:33Copy video clip URL Tape credits.

27:51Copy video clip URL Image Union credits.

28:56Copy video clip URL End of tape.



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