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An interview with Dan Mikel, activist, educator
and Retiree Council President Emeritus

By Board Member Bruce Yernberg

Minnesota State Retiree Council (MSRC), AFL-CIO, President Emeritus Dan Mikel was born in Detroit Michigan.  His father was a union tool and die maker, his mother a social worker. His mother was 100% Danish which led Dan, at an early age, to acquire progressive notions.  His grandfather, a UAW member, who worked for the Ford Motor Company, took young Dan to a few Walter Reuther speeches. He remembers those speeches and believes they inspired his interest in organized labor and civil rights.

In his Detroit high school, at the same time he was there, so was Jimmy Hoffa Jr.  After high school Dan went to college in Des Moines, Iowa.  Of course, he attended the Danish Lutheran College there where he met Alice, a 100% Danish farm girl from SW Minnesota. They have been married for 62 years.

Later he attended Macalester College in St. Paul, MN. Upon graduation from Macalester, he began his teaching career. He taught public school in the metro area and even was an exchange teacher teaching in a small mining town in Australia for a year. Following his year there, he thought it was such a great experience he coordinated the exchange teaching program with Australia for another ten years or so.

Dan taught government and economics for 35 years. He just didn’t teach … he participated. He held many “chairs” as a member of the Minnesota Federation of Teachers (MFT) and later Ed Minnesota. He attended and led many political screenings   He was the Building Rep, Co-Chair of the Salary Negotiating Committee, Grievance Chair and very active in his local COPE Committee and eventually was chair of MFT’s statewide COPE Committee. During this time of teaching, he and Alice raised two daughters.

Dan’s progressive activities didn’t slow down when he “retired” from teaching. He worked for Ed MN and later the State AFL-CIO, mostly on political campaigns. Dan was a founding participant in the State AFL-CIO cable TV show Voices of Experience which ran for 10 years, of which he was many times the host. In the early days of the Minnesota State Retiree Council (MSRC) Dan became a director and eventually its president for 2 terms.  With a suggestion and encouragement from AFL-CIO State President, Ray Waldron, Dan initiated the first MSRC annual Fun(d)raiser that successfully continues today. In recent years he was a trainer/teacher traveling around the state talking about Social Security and Medicare. 

A highlight of his labor career was a trip with Tom Dwyer to Washington D.C. representing retired Minnesotans. The event they participated in was called the Whitehouse Conference on Aging.

When asked what he liked most about all his experiences, Dan said he couldn’t have done any of it without the support of his wife Alice. When asked to expand, he said Alice was always his guide as he met with the thousands of good women and men over the years in the labor movement.

I asked Dan if he had anything to add and he said, “elections have consequences”.  So they do.

Dan continues to be involved with Danish organizations traveling to conventions and meetings in various parts of the country. Although he says he is slowing down he also continues to attend and participate in labor functions and mentioned that lately he feels “re-invigorated”.  So should we all.  

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