Executive Council Statement

On the Service of Tefere Gebre

The AFL-CIO Executive Council recognizes the distinguished service of our brother and friend, AFL-CIO Executive Vice President Tefere Gebre.

Gebre’s election as executive vice president in 2013 signified a generational shift in leadership in the labor movement as he became the first immigrant, political refugee, Black man and local labor council leader elected as a national officer of the AFL-CIO.

Born in Gondar, Ethiopia, Gebre escaped the horrors of war and a brutal military government at the age of 14 and walked across the desert to a refugee camp in Sudan, and then emigrated to Los Angeles as a political refugee. While attending college in California, Gebre worked his first union job as a night shift loader where he learned firsthand the life-changing difference a collective bargaining agreement can make in people’s lives. He has devoted his life to advocating for the rights of workers ever since.

Prior to his election, Gebre was the director of governmental relations of Laborers (LIUNA) Local 270 before serving as the executive director of the Orange County (California) Labor Federation. There, Gebre redefined what was possible by dramatically increasing membership and expanding the political capacity of the labor movement in the county.

As the federation’s executive vice president, Gebre focused his attention on building strong partnerships between labor and community groups, and immigrant rights advocates and civil rights organizations at the local level through our central labor councils and state federations. He placed particular emphasis on organizing workers and building the labor movement in the South.

Gebre used his voice and platform to bring together members of our communities, our workforce and our unions to demand justice, believing solidarity is the best tool we have to overcome bigotry and promote equality in our workplaces and our society.

Tefere Gebre is a true trade unionist and he served the labor movement with an unmatched passion and dedication. He is a relentless advocate for immigrant rights, voting rights and the rights of workers to organize, and the AFL-CIO Executive Council wishes him well in his next endeavors.