Conversion as Strategy: From GM to Workplace Plans

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A Socialist Project e-bulletin ... No. 2080 ... May 5, 2020

Conversion as Strategy: From GM to Workplace Plans

Sam Gindin

In February 2019, shortly after GM’s announcement that its Oshawa assembly operations would be shut down, Sting was in Toronto. He was performing The Last Ship, his musical about the closing of a shipyard in northeast England that resulted in workers occupying and taking the yard over. Unifor leader Jerry Dias grasped the potential of recruiting Sting to the Oshawa cause and invited him to Oshawa. In a moving gesture of solidarity, Sting and his crew arrived to give a free concert of selected songs from the play for the Oshawa workers. Sting departed urging that Oshawa’s story not be "buried under a political carpet."

GM cleverly joined in welcoming Sting: "Sting is a celebrated songwriter and it’s great to have him in Oshawa." The company readily acknowledged "that community-based efforts are important to support employees." But then it notably added "especially when industries have to change." To paraphrase Sting, GM -- much like the British shipyard owners in Sting’s past -- was burying... any responsibility to the Oshawa community under the carpet of a "changing world."

Dias had been livid over GM’s "betrayal." The corporation had backed down on the job guarantees it "promised" in exchange for major concessions. Moreover, GM’s closure announcement in November, 2019 came only a few weeks after the US, Mexico and Canada reached a trade agreement that was ardently praised by Dias -- "Canadians in the auto industry are the biggest winners today." In his comments at the event with Sting, Dias defiantly tried to recapture the hit to his credibility, declaring that "they’re hoping we’ll go away, but the chances of that are zero."

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