JJ Johnson, a widely respected labor journalist and lifelong activist for progressive causes, retired on December 31from the position of editor of 1199SEIU’s publication Our Life And Times.
Johnson supervised the widely celebrated publication for 13 years. He came to 1199SEIU through its merger with SEIU Local 144, where he was the communications director. Before that Johnson directed communications for New York City’s AFSCME District Council 1707, comprised of six locals representing day care, social service, education and home health workers.
“JJ contributed and elevated the tradition of 1199’s magazine, which has always been a voice for justice and for the workers’ struggle,” said 1199SEIU Executive VP Estela Vazquez. “Under JJ’s stewardship the magazine expanded the message of the struggle for justice from New York to Florida.”
Johnson was born in East Harlem, grew up in the South Bronx and lived for many years in the Washington Heights and Inwood sections of Manhattan. For his entire adult life Johnson has been a tireless advocate for peace, justice and the working class. When Johnson was barely out of his teens he sacrificed his freedom rather than fight in Vietnam, a war he believed immoral and unjust. Johnson, Dennis Mora and David Samas – The Fort Hood Three – were the first active duty GI’s to refuse to go to Vietnam and spent 28 months in Leavenworth Prison for this act of conscience.
Johnson’s late father, James Alexander Johnson, was a militant rank-and-file leader in the Distributive Workers District 65 and ceaselessly supported his son. Johnson Sr. was responsible for garnering much of the The Fort Hood Three's support in labor circles. After his release from prison JJ Johnson dedicated his life and work to progressive causes in the U.S. and abroad, including labor rights, civil rights, social justice, and environmentalism.
Through his chosen profession of labor journalism Johnson told the stories of working people with a dignity and honesty rarely found in today’s commercial media.
“From his anti-war activism to his labor journalism, JJ has always exemplified what commitment to the movement is all about,” says Vazquez.