About Our Honorees
Tefere Gebre is the executive vice president of the AFL-CIO. Tefere has had the unique experience of working at all levels of the labor movement.
Tefere Gebre, born in Gondar, Ethiopia, was a political refugee who emigrated to the United States as a teenager. He graduated in 1987 from Belmont High School in downtown Los Angeles. A standout track and field athlete, he attended Cal Poly Pomona on an athletic scholarship. While in college, Tefere worked his first union job as a night shift loader at UPS (and member of Teamsters Local 396). Since, Tefere has devoted his entire life to the values of hard work and a voice at the workplace.
After working for Laborers Local 270 and as the executive director of Frontlash, the former youth and college arm of the AFL-CIO, Tefere went on to work for the statewide labor movement as the Southern California political director of the California Labor Federation, and then as political director of the Orange County Labor Federation from 2006 to 2008. His leadership earned him the role as executive director for the labor federation in 2008.
Tefere contributed tremendous change in redefining the growing labor movement in Orange County, California. As executive director, he doubled the political capacity of the labor movement in the county. Through Tefere's leadership, the federation built strong coalitions with faith and civil rights organizations throughout the county.
When he was elected to the position of executive vice president of the AFL-CIO in 2013, joining Rich Trumka and Liz Shuler as the elected leadership team for the national labor federation, it was a clear recognition of Tefere’s leadership skills and of the focus on building strong labor-community partnerships.
Tefere has focused his attention on building strong partnerships between labor and community groups, immigrant rights advocates and civil rights organizations.
EDWARD J. McELROY, longtime educator and labor leader, is president emeritus of the 1.5 million-member American Federation of Teachers, AFL-CIO, having served as its president from 2004 to 2008. Prior to his election as president, McElroy served 12 years as AFT secretary-treasurer. He joined the AFT executive council in 1974 and was re-elected as a vice president every two years until his election as secretary-treasurer. McElroy also served on the executive council of the AFL-CIO, to which he was elected in December 2001.
McElroy began his career as a social studies and English teacher in Warwick, R.I., and was elected president of the Warwick Teachers Union, Local 915, in 1967. At age 30, he became president of the Rhode Island Federation of Teachers, a position he held until he was elected AFT secretary-treasurer. As president of the RIFT, McElroy personally handled numerous negotiations and arbitrations. McElroy served as president of the Rhode Island AFL-CIO from 1977 until 1992 and earned a reputation as a unifier and effective representative of public and private sector unions.
McElroy is currently the interim Chief Executive Officer of the Union Labor Life Insurance Committee, having previously served as a Director and as the Chairman of the Audit Committee. He also serves on the board of directors of Catholics in Alliance for the Common Good, Education International, and ThanksUSA. McElroy is a member of the board of directors for the National Endowment for Democracy (NED)—a private, nonprofit organization created to strengthen democratic institutions around the world through nongovernmental efforts.
McElroy is a graduate of Providence College. He resides in Washington, D.C., is married to Edwina B. (Ricci) McElroy and has four children, Kathy, Mary, Steven and Elizabeth and three grandchildren, Kyle, Evan and Chloe.