Tefere Gebre Acceptance Speech at the AFL-CIO 2017 Convention

St. Louis, Missouri

Thank you, delegates. It is my greatest honor to serve as your Executive Vice President. 

Thank you, President Marc Perrone, for your nomination. I am proud to be a part of the UFCW family. 

And thank you Jorge Ramirez and Sara Nelson, two great friends and champions for workers. 

Sisters and brothers, these are tough times. 

For our country. For our movement. For our communities.

Good jobs are still too few. Wages are still too low. Tensions are growing.

Between black and white. Between immigrant and native-born. But even in the face of these challenges, I have hope.

Hope of a brighter day. Hope of a stronger tomorrow. Hope of an America with liberty and justice for all. Sisters and brothers, this is a job for the labor movement! 

We can bring our country together! 

I pledge to do my part. To lead with my heart. To never stop fighting.

When I was walking across the Sudanese desert, when hope was nearly lost, when death seemed imminent...America opened its arms to me.

Sisters and brothers, we must open our arms to America. Every sector. Every community. Every background. 

From the refugee who sorts the trash to the immigrant housekeeper. From the white man working harder for less to the black woman still earning only 67 cents on the dollar.

We MUST be the movement for all of America. 

All of us or none of us. 

Our survival as a labor movement and a nation depends on it.

When we come together, when we unite as one...wages will go up...inequality will go down...jobs will improve. 

But this will not happen on its own. 

We have to work hard for it. We have to practice what we preach. Dr. King reminded us that the time is always right to do the right thing.


The emerging majority has already emerged. The future is now. 

We can be the home for immigrants and people of color. We can guarantee equal pay for women. We can protect LGBTQ workers from discrimination. We can make the labor movement more progressive. And the progressive movement more pro-labor. 

Remember, the vast majority of Americans are with us. They want a voice at work. They want more jobs and schools. Not more jails and tax cuts for the rich. 

They want voting rights and immigrant rights and free press rights. They want trade that works, health care that cares and a justice system that is just. 

Once again, I say: this is a job for the labor movement! 

Our opponents want to tear us apart. But we MUST NOT let them! This is our moment. We know what to do. 


Educate and Organize. Mobilize and organize. Galvanize and organize. Organize. Organize. Organize.

Hold our elected leaders accountable. Make our case with passion and determination. 

That's why I joined this movement. That's why we fight. To build a better America. 

For our members. For our founders. For our nation. For my daughter.

This is our responsibility as we build the labor movement of the future!

Thank you very much.