AFL-CIO Executive Vice President Tefere Gebre at the 2013 AFL-CIO Convention in Los Angeles.
|Born||October 15, 1968
|Occupation||Union organizer, Labor activist|
|Known for||Executive Vice President, AFL-CIO|
Tefere Gebre is an Ethiopian-American labor activist and, since September 10, 2013, Executive Vice President of the AFL-CIO. Gebre is the first immigrant elected as an officer in the federation's history. Prior to his election, he served as Executive Director of the Orange County Labor Federation.
When he was 14 years old, Gebre escaped war-torn Ethiopia, walking for weeks to Sudan. He lived in a Sudanese refugee camp until he was 15, when he was granted political refuge status and arrived in Los Angeles alone.
Gebre graduated in 1987 from Belmont High School in downtown Los Angeles. He attended Cal Poly Pomona on a track and field scholarship, and later graduated from the college with a bachelor's degree in International Marketing. While in college, he worked his first union job as a night shift loader at UPS and a member of Teamsters Local 396. He credits his union job for making it possible for him to afford to attend college.
California labor movement and state politics
Early in his career, Gebre worked for then-Speaker of the California State Assembly, Willie L. Brown Jr., as a legislative aid and was twice elected as President of the California Young Democrats. He was the first Black-American and first immigrant elected to lead the California Young Democrats.
Gebre's first union organizing effort in Orange County was a successful campaign for sanitation workers. He served as the Executive Director of Frontlash, which was then the youth and college arm of the AFL-CIO. From 1997 to 1999, Gebre was Director of Governmental Relation for Laborers Local 270. He later served as the Southern California Political Director of the California Labor Federation.
In 2006, Gebre began working for the Orange County Labor Federation, an umbrella organization of 90 unions, first as its Political Director, and then beginning in 2008 as the group's Executive Director. As director, he was credited with helping to "turn the umbrella group of unions into a political force in what remains Republican territory."
As part of an effort to defeat California Proposition 32 on the 2012 ballot, Gebre led the Orange County federation through an extensive voter outreach and education effort that was credited as playing a critical role in the defeat of the initiative.
Labor activists have suggested Gabre's election "represents a generational and philosophical change at the federation -- one that values new progressive partnerships and non-traditional organizing." During the convention at which Gebre was elected, the AFL-CIO highlighted worker organizing campaigns that used non-traditional models of organizing within immigrant communities.
In an interview with Huffington Post, Gabre said, "I have personally never seen a labor meeting more open and ready to bring in more people - a labor movement that is now willing to speak up for the people who sweat behind the counters and in the kitchens of McDonald's, the cab drivers, the domestic workers, and the day laborers."
Gebre is the Executive Vice President of AFL-CIO, the third highest-position in the labor movement. He was given the "Roving Ambassador for Peace” award in 2017, because he was dedicated to social justice and committed to promoting fair employment.
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- Jamieson, Dave (11 November 2013). "At AFL-CIO, An Immigrant's Rise To Vice President Reflects New Opportunities, New Strategies". Huffington Post. Retrieved 14 November 2013.
- Wojcik, John. "Ethiopian immigrant Tefere Gebre shakes up labor organizing". People's World. Retrieved 14 November 2013.
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- Labor Leader, Tefere Gebre, Awarded Peace Prize CounterPunch. Bill Hughes. Dec. 8, 2017.