Tefere Gebre came to the United States in 1984 as a teenager. He and four friends had left their home in war-torn Ethiopia and walked nearly 500 miles across the desert to a refugee camp in Sudan. He was eventually granted asylum as a political refugee and came to the United States by himself, without parents. He settled in Los Angeles, where he learned English and became an advocate for workers’ rights.
In 2008, Gebre was elected executive director of the Orange County Labor Federation. In 2013, he became the first immigrant and the first black American to serve as executive vice president of the AFL-CIO, the largest labor union in the United States, representing more than twelve million workers. In 2017, he was honored as “Roving Ambassador for Peace” by the World Peace Prize Awarding Council. We spoke by telephone in early March.
Read the full interview.