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Sudbury man re-releases pro-union anthem from 2009-10 Vale strike

Mickey O’Brien’s ‘One Day Longer’ has been played on picket lines around the world
Sudbury hip hop artist Mickey O'Brien is a miner by day. He's been making and releasing music for some 20 years.

In 2008, Mickey O’Brien was hired on at Vale, following the mining tradition of his father and grandfather before him. 

Immediately after passing his probationary period, he became a union steward with Steelworkers Local 6500. Then he found himself on strike.

This wasn’t just any strike, though. It was the nearly year-long 2009-10 Local 6500 strike against Vale (then still known as Vale Inco), which was to become the longest in Canadian history.

The labour dispute surpassed even the nine-month-long 1978-79 Inco strike, which ended the year before O’Brien was born.

It was a formative time for O’Brien, then still a young man, as he launched himself into union activism.

These events also ended up inspiring his creativity. O’Brien had previously been involved in the local hip-hop scene, but his band had broken up, and he’d pretty much given up on music as he launched his mining career.

“It was like the hand of God coming in and just giving me inspiration again for my art,” he said.

During that long, divisive labour dispute, O’Brien released the hip-hop pro-union anthem “One Day Longer,” inspired by a chant often heard at Local 6500 union rallies, as well as the circumstances of the strike.

Celebrating the 15th anniversary of the anthem, O’Brien dropped the single for streaming for the first time on March 19, via his label, Hand’Solo Records.

The artist recently performed "One Day Longer" at the International Next Generation Steelworkers conference in Pittsburg, Penn. 

He felt it was a good time to re-release the song, which had never before been made available through streaming services. 

It has been re-recorded and cleaned up, and now includes samples of traditional union folk tunes, including “Which Side Are You On?” and “Solidarity Forever.”

“Seeing how big of a ripple effect like that one piece of art had — like, they played it on picket lines all over the world, and it's very humbling,” said O’Brien, who often performed the piece during rallies during the 2009-10 strike.

“You know, I played that song at the general strike in Madison, Wisconsin, in front of 60,000 or 70,000 people, and in Indiana, in front of 30,000 people fighting right-to-work legislation in the U.S. It was like an anthem at the time. But now it just brings back so many memories.” 

Nearly 15 years after the strike began, O’Brien is still a Vale miner, and still involved with Local 6500. He’s also been busy making a name for himself as a hip-hop musician, having just released his fifth project in as many years in fall 2023, and touring internationally.

But he said "One Day Longer" is really what propelled his music career to the next level. He said he learned he could use it to speak his own truth.

“I think that really got rid of this fear of stigma that was going on in my head about what I was doing with my art, and it allowed me to take my art to a whole other level and just be myself,” O’Brien said.

Musician and union activist Mickey O’Brien (centre) with Steelworkers Local 6500 president Nick Larochelle (left) and vice-president Ray Hammond. (Heidi Ulrichsen/

Ray Hammond, now vice-president of Local 6500, said "One Day Longer" stood out for him at the time of the strike because it was something created out of the union local, and it wasn’t a folk song, as union anthems generally are. “It was modern,” he said.

“When that song came out, it was an anthem to our strike, and it was kind of a rallying cry to our events,” he said.

"One Day Longer" was “a great anthem for us during that year-long strike and really helped us build solidarity and support from not only other unions, but the community,” added Local 6500 President Nick Larochelle.

“Hearing it back then was an adrenaline rush, knowing that we were fighting for the right things, and we were just in Pittsburgh last week, and I heard it again last week, and it brings back memories of the real struggles that we face to maintain maintainer benefits and pensions and wages.”

O’Brien’s original intention for re-releasing the song “was to inspire the next generation of activists, which I'm still on board with,” he said.

“But I like seeing how far we've come as a local, and I'm just honored to be able to document the history of our local with the songs that I've been writing specifically throughout our labor disputes and tough times we've had here.”

"One Day Longer" is available to stream on your favourite platform.

Heidi Ulrichsen is’s assistant editor. She also covers education and the arts scene.


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