Sting explains why he’ll be performing for GM workers in Oshawa
|Toronto Star 11 Feb 2019 at 13:04|
The singer and songwriter is in Toronto for the next month performing in The Last Ship, the musical he wrote about his hometown of Newcastle, England. Much of the show deals with what happened to that community when its main industry, shipbuilding, was shut down. It was a massive upheaval and, due to the similar themes, the entire cast has volunteered to go to Oshawa to perform in solidarity with GM workers.
They will sing songs from the musical Thursday at noon at the Tribute Communities Centre on Athol St.
“Obviously, I want to support a community that is in crisis, the same way that my community was. I don’t have any magic wand to wave, but I think support is important,” Sting said in an interview on Monday. “I want them to realize that we are telling their story too, on the stage. So we’re going along with the whole cast, who have all volunteered to sing some songs, just to show support.”
GM announced in November it was closing its Oshawa assembly plant, which means the loss of 2,600 unionized jobs.
“I think one of the most resonant lines in the play is ‘You are what you do,’” Sting continued. “When that is robbed from you by economic theories, you end up with an abstraction that makes people angry, it makes people frightened, because they have extracted the value of community from the equation.
“I studied economics, but basic, fundamental economics is about community. … The bottom line might work in the short term but, in the long term, it’s untenable. We need community. We need to support that, we need to support human dignity, and it’s basic human decency versus robbing communities of their livelihood so you can exploit people in Bangladesh or somewhere else like that. You are paying them less money. That’s kind of wicked.”
Jerry Dias, national president of Unifor, the union that represents GM workers, says the Oshawa GM staff are “incredibly grateful” to Sting and the cast for their support.
“With the departure of shipbuilding from his hometown, Sting witnessed first-hand what becomes of workers and their families when the core industry is ripped away,” Dias said in a news release. “The tremendously powerful story of The Last Ship resonates deeply as it speaks to the dignity of work, how it shapes individuals and their communities, and the heavy personal toll that is paid when workers’ livelihoods are taken from them.”