‘Good luck with your fight’: Sting supports GM workers battling plant closure
Sting told autoworkers at General Motors in Oshawa, Ontario that he stands in unity with them as they fight the planned closure of their local plant.
The singer joined thousands of GM employees who gathered Thursday to hear him perform a free acoustic concert as a gesture of support.
The British musician played two songs by his former band, The Police — “Message in a Bottle” and “Every Breath You Take” — as well as selections from his musical The Last Ship, about a shipyard that closes when it’s deemed not profitable enough.
“We are telling your story and it’s important that your story is heard…. This can’t be buried under the political carpet,” he said in a press conference after he wrapped a concert at a local community centre.
“Canada needs to get behind you.”
Autoworkers lined up outside the venue, some holding signs of support or wearing shirts that read “Save Oshawa GM,” before they were ushered in for the hour-long performance. The cast of The Last Ship joined Sting in delivering a line-up of rousing numbers from the show, which is being held at the Princess of Wales Theatre in Toronto.
When Sting hit the stage the crowd jumped to their feet to give him a hearty welcome.
“Good luck with your fight,” Sting told the crowd as the performance finished. “We’re with you.”
Songs from The Last Ship were written by Sting based on his experiences growing up in an English shipbuilding town roiled by the collapse of its main industry. The singer drew parallels between his tale of labour strife and the plight of Oshawa autoworkers as they face off with GM executives.
His musical is set in a town that’s under siege by economic policies introduced by Margaret Thatcher, who served as Britain’s prime minister from 1979 to 1990.
“There’s nothing there now,” Sting said of his hometown in Wallsend, England. “There’s some heavy industry coming back, but the town was devastated for a good 30 years by one industry just failing, and not being supported by the government.”
Sting addressed the relationship between GM and its Canadian employees, saying the company has a duty to support a community that’s worked hard for it.
“It should be a mutual support system. It’s about loyalty. These workers have loyally given their lives to the company. It’s a two-way street — you can’t just walk away,” he said.
Unifor president Jerry Dias says with Sting drawing more attention to what’s happening in Oshawa, he anticipates the pressure on executives will intensify.
“GM right now is sitting there and my guess is they’re not drinking champagne behind their desks — there’s no question we’ve gotten their attention,” he said. “They are hoping we’ll go away but the chance of that is zero…. Ultimately GM can fix this. They can change their mind.”