More transformation at the AFL-CIO Convention



• At the AFL-CIO Convention in Los Angeles on Tuesday, delegates elected Tefere Gebre as executive vice president. Born in Ethiopia, he is the first foreign-born trade unionist ever elected to one of the AFL-CIO officer positions. Gebre is a member of the United Food and Commercial Workers, which just returned to the AFL-CIO. But he is most known as head of the Orange County (California) Central Labor Council, where he doubled union membership in one of the most conservative counties in America. He also marshaled increased political activism and built broad and deep partnerships with the community. Washington State Labor Council President Jeff Johnson said Gebre’s election embodies “the spirit of the transformational change” the AFL-CIO Convention sparked this week. “Tefere’s election is a proud moment for the labor movement and proof that we want to build a broad and inclusive labor movement,” Johnson said. In the run up to his election and as a sign of the important role of strong communications in the transforming labor movement, Gebre on Sept. 6 greeted delegates to the International Labor Communications Association Convention in Los Angeles, which included a Federation delegation led by President Carol Dotlich. Read more at:

(Reuters photo)

(Reuters photo)

• The transforming of the labor movement you’ve been hearing about here and elsewhere from the AFL-CIO Convention in Los Angeles is big news in the mainstream media. Here are some excerpts from a Washington Post piece written by Harold Myerson of The American Prospect, which ran in today’s Tacoma News Tribune:

“There was a time when labor activists believed that the union movement would be the vehicle through which working people rose. For the time being, however, most labor activists don’t believe that’s possible. While they’re not abandoning traditional workplace organizing, they’re proclaiming a strategic shift.

“’We are going to expand the idea of collective bargaining,’ said Tim Paulson, executive director of the San Francisco AFL-CIO. ‘You can have collective bargaining through legislation. You can have collective bargaining through ballot measures.’”…

“So the chief business of this convention has been to redefine labor’s mission. Unable to build traditional unions the traditional way, the AFL-CIO has committed itself to building the kinds of coalitions that won expanded health care and affordable lofts in San Francisco….

“The labor movement making common cause with the multiracial panoply of progressive constituencies has long been similarly “multi” at its base, but now that diversity (including gender diversity) has reached its upper echelons as well….

“The union movement now looks like the new America — and is trying to figure out how best to champion that new America’s interests.”
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