Tefere Gebre of the OC Labor Federation

Tefere Gebre of the OC Labor Federation

As executive director of the Orange County Labor Federation, Tefere Gebre has been a vocal opponent of The Honda Center‘s decision to bring in-house its food service operation – which had been contracted to Aramark, whose workers belong to the militant UNITE-HERE union.

During public comments at the May 14 Anaheim City Council meeting, Gebre falsely claimed The Honda Center made this move in order to claim Enterprise Zone job tax credits. As mentioned, Gebre’s allegation was phony, but it was picked up and echoed statewide by a credulous media that failed to check out the claim.

Today, The Huffington Post reports that AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka is going to tap Gebre to be the executive vice president of the AFL-CIO, with the departure from that post of Arlene Holt:

Arlene Holt Baker, the AFL-CIO’s executive vice president since 2007, told colleagues in a meeting Wednesday that she would be leaving the union federation this year, opening a top executive post ahead of the AFL-CIO’s convention in September.

The personnel change could signify a generational shift in leadership at the country’s largest labor federation. Holt Baker, who started as an organizer of public-sector workers in the 1970s, rose through the ranks of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, eventually becoming the first African-American to serve as executive vice president at the AFL-CIO. 

According to a staffer who was in the meeting, AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka, who’s up for reelection at the convention, told colleagues that he would replace Holt Baker on his ticket with Tefere Gebre. Not widely known in D.C. labor circles, Gebre, 45, is an Ethiopian immigrant now serving as executive director of the Orange County Labor Federation in California.

Trumka thanked Holt Baker for her years at the federation, and called Gebre “an authentic voice for a new generation and a great trade unionist,” according to the staffer, who asked to speak anonymously because no official announcement has been made.

Gebre is definitely one militant unionist. He ardently backed fellow left-winger and union staffer Julio Perez in last year’s race for the 69th Assembly District, over former Anahem Mayor Tom Daly, a moderate Democrat who was backed by business interests and a number of trade unions.

Gebre infamously had a conniption on Election night when Daly beat Perez:

Yet on Tuesday night, labor leaders supporting Perez weren’t interested in talking about olive branches.

Tefere Gebre, executive director of the Orange County Labor Federation, said the election was a statement by labor that it is tired of being used as an “ATM” by candidates from both parties.

He described his support for Perez as a personal beef with termed out Assemblyman Jose Solorio. Despite heavy backing from labor, one of Solorio’s first moves was to join a business caucus, Gebre said.

“Are we going to recycle the same s–t over and over again?” Gebre asked. “If that’s the case, then what the [expletive] am I doing here?”


A few miles away, at a union hall in Orange, Tefere Gebre was also drinking Corona, though his mood was far less sanguine. Speaking to two reporters, Gebre, executive director of the Orange County Federation of Labor, launched an expletive-heavy denunciation of Solorio, the termed-out legislator whom Daly and the other candidates were seeking to replace.   “Jose Solorio is dead to me,” Gebre said, in one of his few lines that didn’t include an f-bomb.

Nevertheless, as Tuesday night turned into Wednesday, with most of the ballots counted, Moreno stood in second place, several hundred votes ahead of Perez. That bald fact was projected on a big screen in the union hall where Gebre was fulminating against Solorio.   Gebre was displeased with Solorio’s voting record on labor issues after labor backed Solorio’s successful initial Assembly campaign in 2006. “We have nothing to do with corporate whores,” Gebre said.

Gebre’s outburst prompted calls from within Democratic circles for him to apologize which he eventually did.

Given Gebre’s left-wing militancy, this is a pretty sure signal of the direction Trumka intends to continue charting.