Spaces of Negotiation is a sculptural installation that teases apart the complexity of a current labour dispute in Hamilton, ON. One year ago DoUC started a research project about Hamilton focused by a broad question about the use of ‘creative economy’ rhetoric to negate the city’s strong industrial economy. Two months into that project US Steel locked out USWA Local 1005. The lockout has come to define the project. A lockout is different then a strike – it is the company literally locking their employees out of the space of production. A lockout is a negotiating tactic used by a company to take a dominant position within a contract negotiation. It is US Steel seeking to dictate the terms of Local 1005’s next contract. US Steel purchased Stelco in 2007. The acquisition was approved under the Investment Canada Act, with a contractually defined ‘net benefit’ for Canada. US Steel’s commitments included maintaining Stelco’s 2007 employment, and production levels. They have not respected either of these agreements, using the financial crisis as a scapegoat for closing down the plant on multiple occassions. US Steel is disassembling existing negotiated agreements with both nation states and workers. The situation between US Steel and Local 1005 is not extraordinary. It is part of the regular process of a business maximizing profit through the path of least resistance. We as a society champion this ideology and only notice it when it exists for us personally.
The lockout is affecting 900 current employees (1/3’rd of Stelco’s 2007 employees). The stakes of this contract negotiation also effects the future financial viability 9000 retired steel workers pensions. Spaces of Negotiation, is based on a series of interviews with current and retired members of Local 1005. It is meant as an analytic tool to be applied to the lockout. It traces the seeping impact of the lockout on the lives of the workers, their families, and the city of Hamilton. Spaces of Negotiation is now showing at the WHAC in Hamilton, On until December 23rd, 2011 and will also be featured in the next issue of Monu 15- Post Idealogical Urbanism.