Edward J. McElroy, a former social studies teacher in Warwick, rose through union ranks to become national president of the 1.3 million member American Federation of Teachers (AFL).
Ed started his labor career in the 1960s lobbying for passage of the Michaelson Act, which provided Rhode Island educators with the right to collective bargaining. He became president of the Warwick Teachers Union in 1967. At the time this position carried no salary, so Ed moonlighted as a wedding photographer. In 1971 he assumed the leadership of the Rhode Island Federation of Teachers when politicians sought the imprimatur of the savvy union.
In 1977, Ed headed the Rhode Island Federation of Labor. At age thirty, he was one of the
youngest labor leaders in the country to lead a state AFL CIO body. In that position he furthered the careers of younger labor activists while strengthening the political clout of unions in both the public and private sector, representing construction workers, bus drivers, nurses, teachers, and a plethora of other occupations.
McElroy was elected to the American Federation of Teachers national executive board in 1974 eventually becoming its secretary treasurer. In 2004, union delegates chose him as the federation’s president, one of just a few Rhode Islander’s ever to earn such a title and distinction in the labor movement, since the Rhode Island delegation has few votes compared to New York, California, and other populous states. In his presidential capacity, Ed heads innumerable committees, divisions, and affiliates, most with an eye to the future.
McElroy has a lifelong reputation as a tenacious but fair negotiator. Although more comfortable around a bargaining table or speaking to legislative subcommittee, he never hesitated to hit the bricks, so to speak, to bring publicity to a cause.
Although sitting at the center of power in the nation’s capital, Ed McElroy remains famous for calls and visits to friends and allies in Rhode Island who need guidance and encouragement.
Ed is a graduate of Providence College. He and his wife Edwina now reside in Washington, D.C. They have four children.