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Labor Leader, Tefere Gebre, Awarded Peace Prize

Tefere Gebre with Fr. Sean McManus. Photo: Bill Hughes

On Tuesday afternoon, December 5, 2017, Tefere Gebre, a stalwart of the cause of organized labor, was given a “Roving Ambassador for Peace” award in a ceremony, near Capitol Hill.

Mr. Gebre, a native of Ethiopia, is an Executive Vice-President of the AFL-CIO. According to the program notes, he became in 2013, the “first immigrant, political refugee, black man and local labor council leader elected as a national officer of the AFL-CIO.”

In 1975, at age thirteen, Gebre was forced to leave his native homeland. Ethiopia was being ripped apart by warring factions. He walked hundreds of miles across the desert to reach a safe haven in the Sudan. From there, Mr. Gebre was blessed by gaining “refugee status” and soon emigrated to America, and then to Los Angeles, California.

The award ceremony was held in the headquarters of the AFL-CIO, on the eighth floor, at 815 16th Street, NW, with a splendid view of the White House and Washington Monument. There was close to a capacity audience in attendance.

There are currently 12.5 million members of the AFL-CIO. The national union is governed by its Executive Council with its long term President, Richard Trumka at the helm; along with his second in command, Liz Shuter. She holds the office of Secretary-Treasurer and is also a leader of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers. Mr. Gebre is now the third-ranking leader of the AFL-CIO.

Friends and family members of the honoree, Mr. Gebre, were in attendance. They were joined by officials of the AFL-CIO, staff members and office workers. Last year peace prize winner, Elizabeth “Liz” Powell, Secretary-Treasure of the American Postal Workers Union was there, as was Fred Mason, the President of the Maryland State and D.C., AFL-CIO. He is also a well-known social justice activist in Maryland, particularly, in Baltimore, Annapolis, and in the District of Columbia as well.

James Boland, a native of Ireland and the President of the Bricklayers and Allied Craftworkers Union also spoke at the event.

Gebre came to public attention as “a reformer of the Orange County Labor Federation from 2006 to 2008.” He also served in a variety of other statewide posts in California. Among other positions, Gebre was the Executive Director of “Frontlash.”

The award was presented by Fr. Sean Mc Manus, President of the Irish National Caucus, a national organization; and the Chief Judge of the World Peace Prize. Ms. Barbara Flaherty served as the Chairperson for the program. She is the Executive V.P. of the Irish National Caucus and Corporate Manager of the World Peace Prize.

Fr. McManus said: “Gebre was selected for this Award for the year 2017, because of his dedication to social justice and fair employment. The latter are the very foundation of peace, because peace is the fruit of justice. Those who work for justice are therefore, the real peace workers.”

He continued, “It’s easy to talk about ‘peace’ if one leaves out justice…Working for justice is not a part-time endeavor. Rather it is, instead, the work of a life time. So, we felt that Peace Prize also ‘belong to people’ who spend their lives, day in and day out, working for justice…The way for the ordinary person to get a chance at basic justice is to get a decent job, with a just wage, without any discrimination for any reason.

“Fair employment is… the nexus between justice and peace… Those who spend their lives working for decent jobs with just wages, are indeed the true and steadfast ‘peace builders.’ And if any American group personifies this, it is surely ‘the Labor Movement and the AFL-CIO…’ And that is why…the 2017 recipient of the Roving Ambassador for Peace Prize is Tefere Gebre.”

Background on the World Peace Award – The World Peace Prize, according to the program from the event, “was founded in 1989, by the Rev. Dr. Han Min Su. He is from Seoul, Korea and is a Presbyterian Minister…The World Peace Prize is not only International, but also Inter-faith. The Board of Judges symbolically represent the nine major religions of the word.” To learn more about Rev. Dr. Su and this matter, go to: http://www.wppac.net

In his comments, Gebre recalled how he had experienced at an early age, “war, conflict and injustice” in his native land. Back then in the middle of all that horror, he said, I began “dreaming about peace.”

“Peace Prize”

Gebre will be attending the “National Immigration Day of Action” rally in Washington, D.C. at Upper Senate Park, on Dec. 6th. He ended his remarks by repeating that popular refrain heard at social justice rallies across this country in recent years: “No Justice! No Peace!”

The program ended on a surprising, but also a delightful note. The Irish singer Derek Warfield of “Young Wolfe Tones” fame, sang the iconic labor ballad, “Joe Hill.” Hill, a labor organizer and activist, was a member of the legendary IWW (Wobblies).

More of my photos can be found on my Facebook page.

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Bill Hughes is the author of Baltimore Iconoclast

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