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Labor Fed Chief Should Apologize for Election Night Comments

Tefere Gebre, Photo: Chris Prevatt

While I’m not a member of any union, I grew up in a union household and a several members of my extended family have been or still are in unions.  I know the value of unions who negotiate in good faith with management for good working conditions, good benefits and good wages and how policies fought for by unions generally extend to those of us in the private sector – an eight hour work day, paid vacation, paid sick time, a 40 hour week, safe working conditions.  I see organized labor as a positive force for business and in politics as an organization who speaks for the interests of working men and women of this nation and those in the middle class.

For every story about the inability to fire a bad teacher who’s in the union, I can easily offer five about bad managers in the private sector who hang on to their jobs with business/political connections. For every story about the high cost of union labor, I can offer a story on a private contractor who made a mistake on a bid requiring an expensive change order or did shoddy work.

We’d take someone to task for making anti-union statements that are mean-spirited and uncivil and we have; just look at our coverage of what’s going on in Costa Mesa.  It’s with this same sense of outrage that I call out the offensive and uncivil statements made by OC Labor/Fed chief Tefere Gebre on election night.

The Register’s Andrew Galvin captured the mood from Julio Perez’s primary night party with this passage:  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.

While the Register’s Galvin was more cautious about quoting Gabere due tot he fact the Register is a “family” newspaper, the Voice of OC let it all hang out.  From the story:

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 assholes over and over again?” Gebre asked. “If that’s the case, then what the [expletive] am I doing here?”


Corporate whores.  F-bombs.  Pendejos.  “Dead to me.”  All completey uncivil and unacceptable language coming from a union leader who’s upset his candidate didn’t come in the top two on primary night.  It’s completely unacceptable to a voter like me who generally supports unions and candidates who support union efforts and the middle class.  But the comments come across as mean-spirited, bitter and unprofessional.  I just hope it was the Corona talking and even if that’s the excuse, the comments aren’t right or acceptable in any manner.

This behavior is the complete opposite of the class and positive demeanor demonstrated by Julio Perez on primary night.

Gebre should issue a public apology for this unprofessional statements.  If he can’t, he ought to be taken to the woodshed by other union leaders.  If that doesn’t work, he needs to go.  Fired.  Resignation.  Doesn’t matter.  If you don’t win, figure out why.  Work harder next time.  Fix what’s broken.  If the results stand as they are, time to build alliances and new partnerships.  Divisiveness leads to isolation.

At the end of the day, Perez had the best ground game in the race.  He had the right endorsements, lots of feet on the street, and enough IEs and funds to run an effective race.  What hurt him was poor voter turnout on election day and the make up of the district which favored Daly’s voters who got out and voted.  Daly didn’t have the ground game Perez had; what he had was high name recognition and voters who voted for him before and got out and voted.  People vote, mailers don’t.

Perez certainly has other elections and other campaigns in his future.  He’s a smart candidate with good ideas and great appeal.  He had no previous campaigns and not so great voter ID, yet he beat a popular sitting Santa Ana city council member that had raised a lot of money and had great endorsements but got a lot of bad advice on how to run a campaign for higher office.

It’s a shame if Gebre’s comments might taint such a promising candidaten in Julio Perez or hurt the good work done not only by the OC Labor Fed, but the OCEA and other public sector and private industry unions in general.

I still believe organized labor is a force in politics.  Let’s see if Gebre can own up to his mistakes.  If he can’t, he hurts the cause more than helps it and he should go.


  1. Francisco Barragan Francisco Barragan June 7, 2012

    @ Dan C:

    First of all, for me too the expected votes did not materialize as promised. If failed to secure the votes promised votes.

    But most importantly, I echo and concur with your post.

    I think Tefere’s improper comments contrast sharply with Tom Daly’s civil, courteous and respectful comments, and I think Julio Perez also has handled himself well after Tuesday’s primary election results were announced.

    Per Tom Daly, “Many people supporting Martinez and Perez are people I respect and have known for a long time . . . My door will be open to any person who cares about Orange County”.

    Tefere Gebre needs to apologize because his improper statements are a disservice to Julio Perez, our citizens, and for all of us who care about the issues and our community.

    I think that by apologizing Tefere will best demonstrate his passion and courage!

    With warm regards,

    Paco Barragan
    Former Candidate for State Assembly 2012

    • Francisco Barragan Francisco Barragan June 7, 2012

      Sorry, I meant to say above in the 1st sentence,
      “I failed to secure the promised votes”.

      • BS BS June 7, 2012

        What BS.

  2. just asking? just asking? June 7, 2012

    Tefere is a good man who does his work with passion and zeal. That said, his remarks were way over the line and not acceptable. Like it or not we don’t always win every campaign, and every politician doesn’t always vote the way we would like them to. We still need to work within the system to make the system work for us. Scorched earth approach doesn’t make sense. Especially in the OC, common sense is the way to counter unfounded attacks on workers and those that are unionized. Hopefully we can get behind our candidate and move forward in a positive manner.

    • Greg Diamond Greg Diamond June 7, 2012

      Is there no such thing as “over the line” for you when it comes to how a Democratic politician betrays Democratic constituencies and causes?

      One thing I’ll say for the Republicans: if Solorio were one of them and he’d betrayed their party as much as he betrays ours, after an election there would be nothing left of him but a mustache and smear on the ground.

      • Mearl Hinckley Mearl Hinckley June 11, 2012

        Too true. And you can get confirmation from Wendy Leece in Costa Mesa.

  3. Ed Ed June 7, 2012

    If rough language offends you, do not go to a union hall. It is not a place for those with delicate fee-fees. On the other hand, if you object to the substance of what Tefere said, please tell us. I remember the days of Nixon. When the tapes came out, they revealed crimes in the Oval Office. What raised the biggest fuss? Nixon’s foul language. I can understand the frustration about “corporate whores.” Working around the clock for a candidate who turns around and stabs you in the back can do that. Let us discuss substance please, not style.

    • Dan Chmielewski Dan Chmielewski Post author | June 7, 2012

      I’m not offended easily but his comments were out of line and over the top.

      On top of this, Labor leaders and Solioro will be gatehring for a Flag Day celebration and things can get awkward.

      But Ed, do tell me, isn’t big business the most likely candidate to hire union labor? Small businesses don’t hire union. Can’t we work towards a model like they have in Detroit in the automobile industry where management and labor work together more closely.

      • Ed Ed June 7, 2012

        The animosity between the OC Labor Fed and Solorio has been brewing for years. There has been no love lost there for a long time, and it is not a surprise to either party what Tefere was saying. I do question the wisdom of saying it in front of the Register, however! What unions do does affect small business-ever see the union bug printed on the bottom of an ad or flyer? Whether your business is unionized or not, it still makes choices in who to deal with. The better wages union workers make increase what everyone makes. Yes, we need to work closely with management, but they demonize us as well. Maybe the frustration of a long night finally came out in the wrong way.

        • junior junior June 7, 2012

          Yup – it was a bad night for the organized sector. However, it was a good night for taxpayers.

          • Ed Ed June 7, 2012

            Dear troll,
            Go away to red state or something. This site is called the liberal oc for a reason and you don’t belong here. Did it ever occur to you that workers and union members ARE TAXPAYERS?

            • junior junior June 7, 2012

              Ok – so it was a good night for the tax paying side of union members – A hole.

    • Mearl Hinckley Mearl Hinckley June 11, 2012

      Hear, hear. I’ve been a Teamster and a United Mine Worker, and verify that Tefere’s remarks were nothing special, and certainly not for a union hall. I’m no expert, but when I worked union jobs the union was far more aggressive — which was exactly what the rank and file wanted. They had to have been — and still must be — because we lacked the money and resources available to management. Our only advantages were numbers and people on the picket line. And it still is. There will always be more of us than of them. I once asked an old Swedish Wobbly what union organizing was like in the 1920s at Utah’s massive Kennecott open-pit copper mine. “Scabs?,” he said. “Vee ‘trew ’em in da pit.” Which is exactly what Tefere did to Solario. Figuratively but deservedly.

  4. junior junior June 7, 2012

    “Can’t we work towards a model like they have in Detroit(?)”

    Detroit … not a good example of the efficacy of union/employer relations there Dan. I am sure that you have seen what a totally f**ked up mess Detroit is – many thanks to the unions there for that.

    Unions have an inherent flaw. Union bosses are elected by promising that they can get more and more from employers and they are effective at getting that done. The problem comes in when, due to the rising cost of their labor, union labor becomes uncompetitive with non-union labor. The union loses membership due to the high cost of their labor. But guess what – the union bosses are STILL elected for their promises to get more and more from the beleaguered employer. Pretty soon there is no work left for the dwindling number of union employees. It works the same way for both private sector and public sector unions. They screw themselves out of work by demanding more and more – but the union bosses still have their jobs – until there is no work left – like in Detroit.

    Take a look at the video: “Parts of Detroit look like a war zone.” – “There are 400 liquor stores, but only 8 supermarkets (all discount).” – Kid Rock could buy his old house for $1,500.00 “but who wants to live in that neighborhood.”

    Watch the video to view the efficacy of unions Dan – but have a barf bag nearby.

    • Ed Ed June 7, 2012

      The only barf bag I need is when I see people like you who vote to make their own lives miserable. It is kinda like chickens who vote for Col. Sanders.

      • junior junior June 7, 2012

        Okay – how about a cogent response to my comment?

  5. SoulMan SoulMan June 7, 2012

    Will Dan be asking John Burton next to step down as CA Democratic Party chair for profanity laced (much stronger than Mr. Gebre’s) Gosh, finally someone with balls big enough to tell it like it is. Leadership doesn’t mean pretending to be friends with everyone. And Mr. Gebre DOES have a point. Bravo. A lot of those big anti-consumer corporations Solorio and others sleep with like to play nice with the public then go and screw everyday folks. The damage they do is FAR worse than using foul language.
    Actions do speak louder than words.

  6. Greg Diamond Greg Diamond June 7, 2012

    Oh yes, Dan — and Solorio doing his damnedest to make sure that people can’t afford health insurance is ever so civil. If we Democrats do not want that sort of reaction from activists like Gebre, we should strive not to earn it. Does Solorio even take “corporate whore” as an insult?

    • Dan Chmielewski Dan Chmielewski Post author | June 8, 2012

      It doesn’t matter if Solorio takes that as an insult or not. It’s how the comments are perceived by the average voter and its a turn off. The comment reminds me of a 5 year old who didn’t get his way

      • Gericault Gericault June 8, 2012

        I agree with Dan. Having the Executive Director of the OC Labor Fed blast off with a “Tourettes” episode in front of OC “Rag”ister reporter completely IS the point. Leaders are held to a higher standard, they need to live up to it. An apology is in order here.

        • Greg Diamond Greg Diamond June 8, 2012

          Being willing to call a treacherous ass a treacherous ass when appropriate falls within my definition of leadership. Sometimes people need to hear the unvarnished truth. (C.f., John Burton.)

          • Dan Chmielewski Dan Chmielewski Post author | June 8, 2012

            A lack of imagination and eloquence combined to make Gebre look bad. As a union leader, the comments taint other union members. I didn’t see Julio lose his composure

            • Greg Diamond Greg Diamond June 9, 2012

              Union members are not tainted by a union leader calling out someone who takes union money and works behind the scenes to betray worker interests. If you hung out with a labor crowd, you’d know that.

            • Dan Chmielewski Dan Chmielewski Post author | June 9, 2012

              Greg —
              I grew up in a union household. My wife was in a union as were my dad and both grandfathers. Yes, bad behavior on the part of union leaders splatters on union members. Just like bad behavior from members of Occupy tainted others true tot he cause. We have a respponsibility to speak out when someone acts boorish. I get called on the carpet by my family and friends when I step out of line. It should be no different for anyone else

      • Greg Diamond Greg Diamond June 8, 2012

        The average voter should perceive that something made Tefere really mad. The media — including us amateurs — then have the choice of tut-tutting about civility (as Solorio wants us to do) or to ask the question: what is it that made Tefere so mad? And then we can ask the follow-up, is that anger justified?

        If the comment reminds you of a 5-year old who didn’t get his way, that evinces an appalling lack of understanding of labor issues in Orange County, which you might want to address. You think that this is mere PIQUE?

        • Dan Chmielewski Dan Chmielewski Post author | June 8, 2012

          Greg – see my opening paragraph. I grew up in a union household and am fully aware of labor issues in OC. I also spokek with both Galvin and Elmarek about the interview and I assure you both excercised considerable restraint in what they reported because much of Gebre’s rant was language not fit for a polite company. What he said in front of both of them is much worse than what was reported. Defend that. There’s no excuse for it. Its an election, not a scene from “Scarface.”

          • Greg Diamond Greg Diamond June 9, 2012

            Reread my comment as many times as required for you to address what I said.

            Yes, you grew up in a union household. Now you are a public relations executive. You attend to sizzle, not to steak.

            • Dan Chmielewski Dan Chmielewski Post author | June 9, 2012

              You clearly have no idea what you’re speaking of counselor. I deal in facts and strongly advocate facts that prove my pitch.

  7. Dan Chmielewski Dan Chmielewski Post author | June 8, 2012

    Greg — after reading the comments from Gebre, are you more likely or less likely to vote for a labor-backed candidate in a primary? I’m certainly willing to forgive, but an apology is in order

    • Greg Diamond Greg Diamond June 8, 2012

      I am exactly as likely to vote for a labor-backed candidate in the primary — and if I’m a union worker, I am probably energized by his willingness to take on the county’s powers that be.

      I am less likely to respect your opinion, though, and I find your jaughty “willingness to forgive” creepy. Are you “willing to forgive” Solorio for his trying to drive a stake through health care reform? Have you demanded an apology from him?

      It’s far too easy to take your eye off of the ball — which assumes that your eye has been on the ball in the first place.

  8. Vern Nelson Vern Nelson June 9, 2012

    Why, why, do Tom Daly and Jose Solorio walk past me and Greg at events like today’s Flag Day bash, and not say hi any more? Sad face emoticon…

    • Dan Chmielewski Dan Chmielewski Post author | June 9, 2012

      Greg — your use of the word “creepy” is very Pedrozaesque. I said nothing about being willing to forgive Solorio and this blog has already criticized him for that vote.

      As far as the eye on the ball comment goes, check our friends in OC Labor Feds record in the past few elections. They didn’t do much in the 4th district BoS race, they backed a Republican in Anaheim City Council, they do nothing in Irvine or Tustin or Fullerton.

      • OC Martini Man OC Martini Man June 9, 2012

        A Pro-Union, Union member Republican for a non-partisan city council position. Greg misses again . . .

        • Vern Nelson Vern Nelson June 10, 2012

          Greg misses, Martini Man? What did Greg miss? That sounded to me like Dan missing.

          • OC Martini Man OC Martini Man June 10, 2012

            Typo: I meant Dan. Greg is pretty much solidly on target all the time. Dan, on the other hand, misses the mark with ALOT of smoke being blown. . .

            • Dan Chmielewski Dan Chmielewski Post author | June 10, 2012

              Terrific debate fellas. And hey, please do bring up all of the warts that you feel Solorio has. Bottom line is he is the assemblyman in OC with the best record for labor period. Does he pull 100 percent for labor – no. Does he pull for labor more than anyone else down here – yes. Rather than direct your venom at Solorio, perhaps you can direct some of it to people liek Mr. Wagner, Ms. Harkey, Mr. Mansoor and others.

            • Vern Nelson Vern Nelson June 11, 2012

              We EXPECT Wagner, Harkey and Mansoor to be bad on labor – they’re Republicans, silly! That’s what they were voted in for! Our expectations are different for Democrats like Solorio and Daly. Is this incomprehensible to you?

            • Dan Chmielewski Dan Chmielewski Post author | June 11, 2012

              And when the vote comes to the floor, Solorio votes with labor 93 percent of the time.

              Vern, big business hires organized labor. Small businesses don’t. If you want to create good union jobs, there has to be way to bring businesses to Orange County who will use labor.

            • Vern Nelson Vern Nelson June 11, 2012

              You stubbornly refuse to acknowledge how Solorio sabotages good bills in committee when nobody’s looking – no matter how many people explain it to you. We give up.

        • Joe Hill Joe Hill June 10, 2012

          OC Martini Man,

          I think you mean Dan misses again. Dan also missed a big one here.

          “They didn’t do much in the 4th district BoS race.” The Labor Federation spent a boatload of money backing Lori Galloway in the June 2010 Special election for the 4th District Supervisor’s election. The Labor Fed also spent thousands in the Tustin City Council race supporting Becky Gomez and Sherri Loveland. I believe that the Labor Federation also contributed directly (significantly) and to the I.E. supporting the Irvine Great Park Slate in 2010.

          • Dan Chmielewski Dan Chmielewski June 10, 2012

            Dems had more votes than Nelson in the 4th but labor couldnt convince two other Dems to stay out of the race. Beckie Gomez is a huge disappointment in Tustin and lends almost no support to Deborah Gavello. Labor did an IE in Irvine? Must have missed that completely.

      • Vern Nelson Vern Nelson June 9, 2012

        They backed a Republican? That would be John Leos, who was also backed by Solorio and Correa. He actually seems like the best choice now too, between him and Brandman. Sadly.

        • Santa Ana Citizen Santa Ana Citizen June 10, 2012

          Leos is a good guy, although Jose Solorio backing him tends to detract from his palatability. Still, that is just the general stench that emanates from Solorio, and has nothing to do with Leos. As for Brandman, the stench is getting ripe with him, too.

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