Speech | Civil Rights

Gebre: We Must Be Steadfast in our Solidarity to Fully Realize Dr. King’s Dream

Hi, I’m Tefere Gebre, executive vice president of the AFL-CIO.

In my 27 years in the labor movement, Dr. King’s vision has inspired and propelled me forward.

His words meant so much to me as a young political refugee and immigrant in a new country.

As I look back on my first union job, I remember feeling immense hope for what solidarity can mean for every working person in this country, no matter who they are or where they were born.

What is happening to working people today is the opposite of Dr. King’s vision and hope.

More than 50 years after the Voting Rights Act was signed into law, efforts are underway across the country to strip communities of color of our right to vote.

Immigrants continue to work in the shadows with no clear path to citizenship.

And millions of people nationwide are working for poverty wages, in unsafe conditions.

Our democracy is at risk.

Our rights are in danger.

Democracy and rights are like muscles and heart.

If we don’t use them, they wither.

But when we exercise our rights—our right to speak up, our right to organize, our right to vote—our democracy can grow stronger.

Democracy means we stand together, as equals.

There should be no “us vs them” in our movement.

Our strength can be found in every corner of the country—in our federations’ members, home health care workers, mine workers, sanitation workers, doctors, actors, journalists and more.

There is no real democracy when anyone who lives and works here is disenfranchised at the ballot box or at our workplaces.

No matter where we are or what we do, being united is the only way that we can move forward.

We must be steadfast in our solidarity.

Only then can we fully realize Dr. King’s dream. I remain hopeful we can. Thank you.

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