RIP Don Cornelius, From Chicago to Peace, Love and Soul Train

Soul Train was a big influence on generations of American teens (and their younger siblings and older relatives). So, the news today of host Don Cornelius’ death is jolting many people, no more so than here in the Midwest. Famous people, ranging from Jesse Jackson to Quincy Jones, are paying tribute.

Soul Train began as dance parties at local schools, then became a local program on Chicago television. It featured dancing and performances in the mode of American Bandstand, but with an urban flair exemplified by Cornelius’ deep, smooth voice. And of course, the highlight of every show was the Soul Train line dance, along with Cornelius’ sign off: “Wishing you peace, love and souuulll.” Continue reading “RIP Don Cornelius, From Chicago to Peace, Love and Soul Train”

To Our Friends Who Left The Midwest: Don’t Forget To Call Us!

Everybody who lives in the Midwest knows somebody who moved away — and maybe you’re one of those folks. All this month, Changing Gears has been bringing you the personal stories of that Midwest Migration, here and on our dedicated page.

Now, we want to hear what people who left have to say to the folks back home. That’s the reason for Don’t Forget To Call Us.

All this week, dial in with messages for your family, your friends, your hometown, your school, your buddies at work — anything you feel like sharing. We’ll post your voices here on, and we also may put your greeting on the air.

Now through Friday, call (888) YOUR-NPR OR (888) 968-7677. Don’t forget to call us!

Holding on to Midwest Roots in New York City

Name: Sam Osterhout
Midwest Home
: Minneapolis, MN
New Home: New York, NY

I was living in Minneapolis, but had grown up in Kansas. I used words like “I-90” and “3-2 beer” in every day conversation (but not usually in the same sentence). I knew several hot dish recipes. I had owned three snow blowers. I was doing a show in Minneapolis called The Electric Arc Radio Show, and in 2007 we took it to New York City. (It’s now Radio Happy Hour.)

One of the New Yorkers who came out the first night was a woman. She was a friend of a friend and we were smitten from the beginning. After carrying on long distance for a year, I moved to NY in 2008 to be with her and to pursue more writing work. In 2009 I married that audience member, friend-of-a-friend I met at my first show in New York, and last November we had a little girl named Ruby.

Every day I think about how different her childhood will be from mine. She’s a New Yorker, for the love of God! I had my first taxi ride when I was 16. She had her first taxi ride when she was one day old. Will she someday look past New Jersey and only see California? Not if I can help it.

Honda, Trying To Get Its Mojo Back, Revs Up Ohio Engines

Honda, like Toyota, has suffered through a lot in the past year — sluggish sales, the Japanese tsunami and earthquake, and floods in Thailand. But it’s vowing to get its mojo back and plans to do so by  revving up its American production.

This morning, Honda said it will invest $98 million at its engine plant in Anna, Ohio, the one you’ve probably driven by Interstate 75. The investment comes on top of a $120 million investment at Honda’s transmission plant in Russells Point, Ohio.

The money is going to build a new engine and transmission family called “Earth Dreams.” The transmission plant will make what are called Continuously Varying Transmissions, or CVTs, which don’t have gears but shift up and down smoothly, and the engine plant will produce parts for those transmissions. Continue reading “Honda, Trying To Get Its Mojo Back, Revs Up Ohio Engines”

Midwest Memo: Indiana Votes On Right To Work, Chrysler Profits, Detroit Has A (Tentative) Deal

Right to Work, right away Indiana is expected to be the first state in the industrial Midwest to become a Right to Work state. And it could happen as soon as today. Right to Work rules prohibit companies from negotiating contracts with their unions that make union membership mandatory. Instead, workers will have a choice whether to join the union. Business leaders say the changes will make Indiana more competitive. Union leaders say the changes will let some workers benefit from union bargaining without having to pay to support the union. They say it will ultimately weaken the union.

Pentastar profits Chrysler had its first profitable year since 1997.

Start up money A group of 44 Chicago business leaders are starting a new tech investment fund. Meanwhile, the state of Michigan is thinking of launching its own start-up fund.

Honda invests Honda is expected to announce new investments in two Ohio plants today.

A deal in Detroit The Detroit Free Press reports the city has reached agreements with its unions that could keep the city solvent, and avoid a state takeover.

A Year After The Uproar, Labor Protests Continue in Wisconsin

The nation was riveted on Madison, Wisconsin last year when tens of thousands of people protested Gov. Scott Walker’s proposal to dismantle most union rights for state and local workers. Walker was successful. Now, a year later, how have those changes made life different in Wisconsin? Changing Gears has been taking a look at the impact state governments have on everyday life, and I take a look at Wisconsin in the first of two reports.


The Solidarity Sing Along outside the Capitol building in Madison, Wisc. (Niala Boodhoo)

It’s noon, and on the steps of the Capitol building in Madison, Wisconsin, about 100 people are gathered in a circle, singing labor songs like “If I Had a Hammer” and “Solidarity Forever”. They have a conductor, drummer, someone passing out songbooks and even a cymbals player. It’s been dubbed the Solidarity Sing-A-Long.

People wave signs protesting Gov. Scott Walker as they walk. Some signs call for his recall.

Last Valentine’s Day, when the sing-a-long began, thousands of workers were protesting at the Capitol. They were trying to get legislators to stop Walker’s proposal to take away collective bargaining rights for state workers.

Wisconsin was one of the first states in the country to allow its public workers to unionize. Dues were taken right out of their paychecks, and they were represented by unions that bargained over wages, pensions and health care contributions. Continue reading “A Year After The Uproar, Labor Protests Continue in Wisconsin”