Billy Bragg joins Starbucks strike effort in Buffalo, performs ‘Solidarity Forever’

Billy Bragg has joined the strike efforts of Starbucks employees in Buffalo, treating the union members to a performance of the song ‘Solidarity Forever’.

Visiting the strikers at the site of Starbucks’ first unionised store in Elmwood, Bragg was among those calling on the corporation to ensure fair and safe working conditions. The musician and activist appeared at the strike on Tuesday (October 12), six days after union members first shuttered the store on October 6.

According to Buffalo’s WIVB, Bragg performed a live rendition of the popular trade union anthem ‘Solidarity Forever’. He later addressed the crowd with a note on solidarity, telling strikers that “the reason [corporations] are so afraid of empathy is because if you mix empathy with activism you get solidarity, and that’s what they’re really afraid of.”

Later, Bragg discussed the power of music when paired with activism. “[Music] makes you believe that there will be a great leap forward,” he said, “but just remember that you have to make it happen, so don’t forget that.”

Bragg has long used his music as a vehicle for activism, having released a slew of protest songs including ‘Between The Wars’ in 1985 and ‘It Says Here’ the following year. Those tracks were this year included in Our Subversive Voice, a catalogue project recording the history of English protest songs launched by The University of East Anglia.

In February, Bragg praised the idea behind the project, saying that protest songs “[have] a great way of making you feel you’re not the only person who feels this way.” In a 2020 interview with NME, Bragg further elaborated on the future of activism, saying that “the idea of [younger generations] not being political has gone in the dumpster.”

Bragg made the detour to the Buffalo strike in the midst of his ongoing tour of North America. The singer will soon perform dates in Detroit and Chicago, before embarking on a UK leg in December. The tour come in support of Bragg’s 2021 LP, ‘The Million Things That Never Happened’, which NME called “a mellow and empathetic antidote to the chaos and confusion of modern life” in a three-star review.

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