What I Do
Deborah Cannada, Librarian - West Side Elementary School, Charleston, WV.
Tefere Gebre is the executive vice president of the AFL-CIO. Tefere has had the unique experience of working at all levels of the labor movement.
Tefere Gebre, born in Gondar, Ethiopia, was a political refugee who emigrated to the United States as a teenager. He graduated in 1987 from Belmont High School in downtown Los Angeles. 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 member of Teamsters Local 396). Since, Tefere has devoted his entire life to the values of hard work and a voice at the workplace.
Work and the Labor Movement
After working for Laborers Local 270 and as the executive director of Frontlash, the former youth and college arm of the AFL-CIO, Tefere went on to work for the statewide labor movement as the Southern California political director of the California Labor Federation, and then as political director of the Orange County Labor Federation from 2006 to 2008. His 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, California. As executive director, he doubled the political capacity of the labor movement in the 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 was singled out as an “agent for change” by the California Labor Federation. In less than a year as executive director, Tefere increased the federation's membership by more than 15,000 new members, established a communications division, expanded the political operations and grew the program staff.
Through Tefere's 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. In 2012, the federation created and took on the first 10-week leader initiative program at local schools to educate parents and students on city government, boards and commissions, public speaking, civic engagement and policy change, while also giving participants an understanding that work connects us all.
When he was elected to the position of executive vice president of the AFL-CIO in 2013, joining Rich Trumka and Liz Shuler as the elected leadership team for the national labor federation, it was a clear recognition of Tefere’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.
Tefere has continued to demonstrate leadership by example. He has focused his attention on building strong partnerships between labor and community groups, immigrant rights advocates and civil rights organizations. He has placed particular emphasis on building the labor movement in the South, where conditions are most oppressive for millions of workers. Based on his own experience as a child refugee, Tefere 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 Tefere’s experience as an immigrant labor activist and 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.
Before joining the labor movement, Tefere worked for then-Speaker of the California State Assembly Willie L. Brown Jr. as a legislative aide. Never hesitant to lead, Tefere twice was elected as president of the California Young Democrats—and he was the first African American and first immigrant elected to serve in that position. Tefere received a bachelor’s degree in international marketing from Cal Poly Pomona and an MBA from the University of Southern California. Tefere and his wife, Jennifer Badgley have relocated from California and live in Maryland.
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