Dave Meinell honored with Robert O. Kortkamp Humanitarian Award

MISSOURI ALLIANCE FOR RETIRED AMERICANS (MOARA) President Mike Louis (left) presents Dave Meinell, a champion of the St. Louis Labor Movement, with the alliance’s 2023 Robert O. Kortkamp Humanitarian Award during a luncheon Oct. 26 at Maggie O’Brien’s. – Labor Tribune photo

Missouri Correspondent

Dave Meinell, a champion of the St. Louis Labor Movement and former president of the Missouri Alliance of Retired Americans (MOARA), was honored with the Alliance’s Robert O. Kortkamp Humanitarian Award.

Meinell, a Machinists District 9 retiree, was presented with the award on Oct. 26 at Maggie O’Brien’s in St. Louis among family and friends. The award honors Kortkamp’s strong personal commitment on behalf of working families, persons with disabilities and senior citizens. Kortkamp was one of the founders of the Missouri Alliance for Retired Americans.

Jim Brown, retired District 9 directing representative who introduced Meinell at the luncheon, said he started working with Meinell in 1978 at District 9 as an organizer. About a week after he was there, Brown said he traveled to West Point, Mo. to investigate an organizing lead at a factory and that Meinell – in an effort to get there before 5 p.m. – sped the entire way.

“We were going down a dirt/gravel road and Dave was doing about 80 miles per hour,” Brown explained. “I was so scared I thought I was going to have a heart attack. I worked with Dave for 25 years and never got in the car with him again. But I’m proud to say I got to work with him, and he’s truly a union person.”

Meinell started his Labor career in 1958 as a member of Teamsters Local 618 while working at a local service station. In 1963, he transferred to Machinists Automotive Lodge 777 and started working as a mechanic at Johnny Londoff Chevrolet.

Later that year, he was drafted into the Army and served until 1965. He returned to Johnny Londoff and went to Weber Chevrolet in 1977. He took a leave of absence from Weber and was appointed to work as a Grand Lodge apprentice coordinator for the Midwest Territory and established the first government registered apprenticeship program for the IAM in Cape Girardeau.

Meinell stepped in as a business representative for District 9 in 1977 and in 1978 he and Bob Kortkamp worked diligently to defeat a “right-to-work” amendment  on the Missouri ballot.

Meinell spent the next 27 years negotiating contracts and representing thousands of IAM members. He retired from District 9 in May 2004 and went straight to work as an IAM Grand Lodge coordinator for their retirees group. He also began working with the MOARA first as treasurer and then as president.

In addition to fighting so-called “right-to-work” in 2018, Meinell has worked to secure Medicaid expansion and to protect Social Security. He also fought for Healthcare for All to secure medical coverage and prevent hospitals from closing in rural Missouri.

“This award has special meaning to me,” Meinell said in accepting the honor. “I want to thank you guys because if it wasn’t everyone in this room, we wouldn’t have been able to accomplish everything we did.”

Meinell stepped down as president last year, passing the reigns to former Missouri AFL-CIO President Mike Louis.

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