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.