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Stateside: construction labor disputes, plastic in the Great Lakes, a 1930s prison arts advocate

striped safety cones on a road
Steve Carmody
Michigan Radio
A labor dispute between contractors and union equipment operators and technicians has brought road projects to a halt across the state.

On today's Stateside, you've probably seen pictures of plastic pollution in the ocean forming giant islands or entrapping sea animals. But what happens when plastic gets into the Great Lakes? Plus, a Michigan chaplain pushing for prison reform in the 1930s wanted to enrich inmates lives with art. 

Listen to the full show above or find individual segments below. 

Labor dispute brings Michigan road construction to a standstill

Stateside's conversation with MITA executive vice president Mike Nystrom, and Dan McKernan with Operating Engineers Local 324.

Road construction around Michigan, including major projects on I-696 and I-75, are at a standstill. That’s after a contractors association locked out unionized heavy equipment operators and technicians represented by Operating Engineers Local 324. The lockout began Tuesday. It was ordered by the Michigan Infrastructure & Transportation Assocation (MITA), which represents more than 500 construction contractors.

Stateside talked to MITA executive vice president Mike Nystrom and Dan McKernan, of the Operating Engineer Local 324, about where negotiations stand.

What happens to plastic when it gets into the Great Lakes?

Stateside's conversation with Christy Tyler, ecologist and biogeochemist at the Rochester Institute of Technology

We’ve all seen images of sea turtles choking on plastic bags, beaches strewn with plastic, and garbage patches swirling in ocean currents. But what happens when plastics make their way to the bottom of freshwater systems like the Great Lakes? 

Ecologist and biogeochemist Christy Tyler has been exploring that question. Tyler is an associate professor of environmental science at the Rochester Institute of Technology. She joined Stateside to talk about the impact plastic pollution has on lakes and other freshwater systems.  

How a fitness class is building community among immigrant women

Stateside's conversation with Sisterhood Fitness employee Kawthar Jabr and founder Claire Kirby

Being an immigrant in a place where you don’t know the language or have a network of friends and family can be an intimidating and lonely experience. Sisterhood Fitnesswants to change that. The group started by offering fitness classes for women, most of whom were newly-arrived Arab and Muslim immigrants. Since then, it’s blossomed into a kind of community center, offering language and citizenship classes.

Stateside talked to Claire Kirby, founder and director of Sisterhood Fitness, and Kawthar Jabr who recently made the move from Sisterhood Fitness member to employee, about how the organization builds a sense of community for the women they serve.

Gelineau: Literacy reforms should empower teachers

Stateside's conversation with Bill Gelineau, Libertarian candidate for Michigan governor

More than half of Michigan students in grades 3-8 failed the literacy portionof the most recent statewide M-STEP test. That continues a downward trend for reading scores in the state, despite investments of more than $100 million to boost literacy skills. We’ve heard from Republican gubernatorial candidateBill Schuetteand Democratic candidate Gretchen Whitmer about what they would do to make sure Michigan’s kids were on track when it came to reading. Today, Stateside talked to Libertarian candidate Bill Gelineau.

The Michigan chaplain who led push for prison reform in the 1930s

Stateside's conversation with state archivist Mark Harvey and co-founder of the University of Michigan’s Prison Creative Arts Program Mary Heinen

You may have heard media reports about the ongoing nationwide prison labor strike that began last month. Participating prisoners are demanding reforms to the country’s current incarceration system. Calls for prison reform are nothing new, though. Nearly a century ago, a Michigan chaplain named Albert Ewert was pushing for reforms, including creating art programs that would enrich prisoners’ lives while they were incarcerated.

Stateside talked to Michigan’s state archivist Mark Harvey and co-founder of the University of Michigan Prison Creative Arts Program co-founder Mary Heinen about Ewert’s legacy.

This segment is produced in partnership with the Michigan History Center.

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Stateside is produced daily by a dedicated group of producers and production assistants. Listen daily, on-air, at 3 and 8 p.m., or subscribe to the daily podcast wherever you like to listen.
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