Magic Johnson's won a lot of praise over the years for his post-basketball business ventures. Many of those ventures -- movie theatres, Starbucks franchises -- have been part of revitalizing lower income neighborhoods as well, which has also served to burnish his image. A dispute with a union about a real estate project in Brooklyn, however, is casting some of his dealings in a new light.
Johnson is part of the group that has converted the Williamsburgh Savings Bank building in Brooklyn into the One Hanson Place condominiums. The building has run afoul of Service Employees International Union Local 32BJ because it hasn't hired unionized doormen, porters and other workers. That means the building workers must pay $360 a month for health care for each member of their family, according to the Daily News, and miss out on other benefits available to union members.
As part of its full court press against Johnson, the union has set up a website, MagicTricksUs.com, that goes after the notion that Johnson cares about the community serviced by many of his other businesses. They say that his work on behalf of two companies, Jackson-Hewitt Tax Services and Rent-a-Wreck, makes him a supporter of the predatory business practices allegedly used by each company. The union enlisted City Councilwoman Letitia James in their cause.
"Magic Johnson should be ashamed of himself," James said. "There is nothing magic about what he does. What he does is prey upon poor people."
Unfortunately for Johnson, Magic is just a name and he's unlikely to be able to make this all disappear.