Gaspard was born in the Democratic Republic of Congo to Haitian parents and raised in Park Slope, Brooklyn. He spent the first part of his career working in New York politics, and nearly his entire career working with one of the most powerful labor unions in the country.
Gaspard started in politics in 1988 when Rev. Jesse Jackson ran for the Democratic nomination for president. The next year, Gaspard worked on the campaign of David Dinkins (D), who became the first black mayor of New York.(4) He was working as chief of staff for council member Margarita Lopez when Guinean immigrant Amadou Diallo was shot 41 times and killed by police in 1999.
SEIU’s Local 1199 coordinated a “March for Justice” against police brutality and a variety of other forms of civil disobedience in the months after the shooting.(5) Dennis Rivera, the president of Local 1199, and Bill Lynch, the union’s political director, asked Gaspard to help organize the march. Shortly afterwards, he was appointed political director.(6) SEIU is the largest service workers union in the country, with more than 300,000 members, and Politico.com described it as “politically potent.”(7) Gaspard worked as a registered lobbyist for the union working on labor issues, in particular universal health care.
Gaspard supported Howard Dean during the 2004 Democratic contest, and he was national field director for America Coming Together, a 527 group that focused on getting out the vote.(8) While he was there, ACT came under fire for using convicted felons as canvassers in Missouri, Florida and Ohio during the 2004 presidential election. The organization decided to re-vet all of its canvassers to make sure it didn’t have any violent criminals on its payroll.(9)