Tefere Gebre leaves AFL-CIO for Greenpeace
Tefere Gebre Facebook page

WASHINGTON —Tefere Gebre, the one-time teenage Ethiopian refugee, and the first local central labor council official to attain one of the top three posts at the AFL-CIO, has left the labor federation for a top job at Greenpeace.

The federation announced his departure, which occurred at the end of February, in an Executive Council statement during its March 15-16 meeting in Washington. The New York Times previously reported his move to the environmental organization, citing Greenpeace.

Gebre was elected AFL-CIO Executive Vice President in 2013, running with incumbent President Richard Trumka and top Electrical Workers staffer Liz Shuler. She took the federation’s #2 job, Secretary-Treasurer, and succeeded Trumka when he unexpectedly died in August 2021. The executive vice presidency held by Gebre is the AFL-CIO’s #3 post.

As Executive Vice President, former Teamster—while in college—Gebre helped lead organized labor’s push to break through in the union-hostile South. He’s also an impassioned and outspoken advocate for comprehensive immigration reform, including eventual full citizenship for the estimated 11 million undocumented people in the U.S. That’s no surprise, as he walked across Sudan at age 14 to board a refugee ship headed here.

Comprehensive reform and legalization would benefit all workers, Gebre declares, because the undocumented, by becoming legal, would get labor rights and not be subject to bosses’ deportation threats or strong-armed to undercut union workers, forcing those workers into inhumane wages and working conditions, too.

“As a night shift loader,” and Teamster, Gebre “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,” the Executive Council statement said.

Gebre later became director of governmental relations for Laborers Local 270 in the Los Angeles area, and executive director of the Orange County, Calif., Labor Federation.

His work there, in registering and galvanizing new voters—especially voters of color in the rapidly changing large county—turned Orange from its decades of rock-ribbed right-wing Republicanism to a ‘purple” county that now elects three Democrats to its four U.S. House seats. And the GOP rep is a fluke, having won a close special election after a scandal-scarred Democratic incumbent was forced to quit.

“As 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,” the council said. He told the Times that he’ll work to bring workers to the environmental movement.

Gebre became Greenpeace’s chief program officer, directing campaigns, direct action, communications, and organizing. He’ll report to its co-executive directors.


Mark Gruenberg
Mark Gruenberg

Award-winning journalist Mark Gruenberg is head of the Washington, D.C., bureau of People's World. He is also the editor of the union news service Press Associates Inc. (PAI). Known for his reporting skills, sharp wit, and voluminous knowledge of history, Mark is a compassionate interviewer but tough when going after big corporations and their billionaire owners.