Tefere Gebre is the Executive Vice President of the AFL-CIO, and in 2013 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 fled state-sanctioned violence and made his way to a refugee camp in the Sudan as a teenager. After several months of interviews and processing, Tefere was granted refugee status and without his family emigrated to Los Angeles, where he graduated from Belmont High School in 1987. A standout track and field athlete, he attended Cal Poly Pomona on an athletic scholarship. While in college, Tefere worked his first union job as a night shift loader at UPS and became a member of Teamsters Local 396. Since then he has devoted his entire life to the values of democracy, justice and helping workers organize to achieve a voice at the workplace. Before joining the labor movement full-time, Gebre worked for then Speaker of the California Assembly, Willie Brown as a legislative aid, and was subsequently twice elected as president of the California Young Democrats, and was the first African American and immigrant to serve in that position.
Work and the Labor Movement
From 1997 to 1999, Tefere was Director of Governmental Relation for Laborers Local 270. He also worked for the statewide labor movement when he served as the Southern California Political Director of the California Labor Federation. He served as the Executive Director of Frontlash, which was then the youth and college arm of the AFL-CIO. After serving as Political Director of the Orange County Labor Federation from 2006 to 2008, his great success and leadership earned him the role as Executive Director for the labor federation in 2008.
Tefere contributed tremendous change in redefining the growing labor movement in Orange County, Calif. Through his leadership, the federation built strong coalitions with faith and civil rights organizations throughout the county to advocate and support policies that improve the lives of all workers. As Executive Director, Tefere doubled the political capacity of the labor movement in Orange County. In 2008 and every year thereafter, the federation was honored by the state federation’s strategic planning committee as one of the highest performing labor councils and singled out as an "agent for change" by the California Labor Federation. Tefere joined the National AFL-CIO’s State Federation and CLC Advisory Committee in 2009, and brought his experience, passion and commitment to bear on the AFL-CIO’s efforts to strengthen state and local labor movements.
When elected to the position of executive vice president of the AFL-CIO in 2013, it was a clear recognition of Gebre’s leadership skills and of the focus on building strong labor-community partnerships at the local level through the movement’s central labor councils and state federations.
Gebre has continued to demonstrate leadership by example. He has focused his attention on building strong partnerships between labor and community groups, immigrant rights, democracy, and racial justice organizations.. Based on his own experience as a child refugee, Gebre has brought a passionate and personal perspective to bear in the labor movement’s fight for comprehensive immigration reform and a pathway to citizenship for millions of immigrant workers and their families. In the end, it is Gebre’s experience as an immigrant labor activist, advocate for racial justice, and grass roots local labor council leader that makes him a great complement to President Trumka, of the Mine Workers, and Secretary-Treasurer Liz Shuler, of the Electrical Workers, to lead the AFL-CIO.
Tefere has a bachelor’s degree in international marketing from Cal Poly Pomona, and an MBA from the University of Southern California. He and his wife, Jennifer Badgley, recently welcomed their first newborn daughter MuluAlem Eden Gebre to their current home and community in Silver Spring, Maryland.