Sheria Smith, President

Sheria is an attorney for the Office for Civil Rights (OCR) in Dallas. Born and raised in Gary, Indiana, Sheria hails from a family of proud members of the United Steel Workers. She graduated from Harvard University and The University of Texas School of Law. Before she joined OCR, Sheria was a fifth-grade teacher (and member of the Texas Classroom Teachers Association), clerked for two federal judges, and spent six years practicing employment and commercial litigation for private local and international law firms. Sheria joined OCR in November 2016 and joined AFGE in January 2017 at her first AFGE meeting. She served as the local president of former Dallas Local 3897, acting president of Local 252, and is part of Texas AFL-CIO Ruth Ellinger Labor Leaders class. She believes it is important for all bargaining unit employees to join together to maintain a workforce that will ensure that the Department of Education performs its stated mission in a manner that benefits all citizens.

Edward James, Vice President 

Edward is a management analyst and program officer in the Office of Early and Secondary Education at the Department of Education headquarters in Washington, D.C. He was born in Arizona and has lived in several states and countries as he is the proud product of a diverse military family. Edward graduated from Bowie State University and attended New Mexico State University in Las Cruces, N.M. Edward has a background in Equity Assistance, Acquisition Management and evidence-based practices with a concentration in K-12 education. Edward is also a Ward 6 Advisory Neighborhood Commission (ANC) Commissioner for the District of Columbia where he serves on the commission for Persons with Disabilities. He was appointed by the Mayor of Washington, D.C. in October of 2018. Edward joined the Department of Education and AFGE in January 2015. He believes in transparency, empowerment, educating and equipping employees with tools. Edward hopes that through his service to the union, more employees will become aware of their rights in the workplace and the importance and benefits of union membership.

Samire Elhouty, Treasurer

Samire is a Civil Rights Attorney for the U.S. Department of Education Office for Civil Rights (OCR) in Dallas, Texas. He is licensed to practice law in Texas and California, and is a certified mediator.  After earning a B.A. in Political Theory and History from the University of California at Los Angeles (UCLA), he earned his J.D. from Cornell Law School in Ithaca, New York. Upon passing the California bar, he worked for a private firm where his practice involved corporate and commercial law, estate planning, and employment law. In his current role with OCR, Samire investigates and resolves complaints involving allegations of discrimination in institutions that receive funding from the U.S. Department of Education.

Samire is active in the community and has volunteered for a number of legal and leadership organizations. In Los Angeles, Samire was awarded “Volunteer of the Year” by the Retirement Housing Foundation for providing estate planning and end of life planning for financially vulnerable, at-risk residents of the largest senior housing community in the United States.  In Dallas, Samire has volunteered with the Dallas Public Library as an English teacher for students preparing to take the GED exam. Samire has also received the Legal Aid of Northwest Texas “Volunteer of the Month” award for providing pro-bono estate planning services to financially disadvantaged residents throughout the Dallas-Ft. Worth metroplex. His most recent volunteer efforts are with the Dallas Community Police Oversight Coalition and the National Lawyers Guild to support the protection of civil rights within the community.

Samire previously served as Treasurer for Dallas Local 3897. Now, as Treasurer for Local 252, Samire strives to foster solidarity, professional development, and to support fellow employees in need.

Jacob Griffith, Secretary 

Jacob is an attorney at the Office for Civil Rights (OCR) Washington D.C. regional office. Before joining the Department, he was an attorney at the Social Security Administration, where he served as corresponding secretary for Local 3615.

Jacob was born and raised in Los Angeles and graduated from the University of California at Santa Barbara. He earned his J.D. and a master’s degree from the University of Southern California at the schools of law and public policy.

Michael J. Pillera, Western Regional Vice President 

Michael is an attorney for the Office for Civil Rights (OCR) in Dallas. As a child, Michael’s mother often told him stories about his grandfather, who died before he was born. Among the stories Michael heard with the most pride from his mom were stories of his grandfather’s service as a local union leader at Ford. Before Michael was old enough to know what a union was, he knew unions were essential and he knew that he was from a union family. After receiving a business administration degree at Michigan State University (go green!!), Michael volunteered with AmeriCorps for a year and worked as a paralegal at Catholic Charities Legal Services. After AmeriCorps, Michael completed law school at Cornell, where he focused his academic time on human rights, labor law, and employment discrimination classes. Michael also had the privilege of serving as a teaching assistant for a feminist jurisprudence class and working as a research assistant to a professor who focused on human rights. During law school, Michael served on the e-board of several human rights and public interest related organizations and worked in various public interest and human rights related capacities, including innocence project work and legal aid. When he graduated, he was awarded the Freeman Award for Civil-Human Rights by Cornell Law School. Since graduation, Michael has worked for the U.S. Department of Justice, the Department of Homeland Security, and now the Department of Education, Office for Civil Rights. At each agency, Michael’s focus has been on civil and human rights.

Diane Riddick, Eastern Regional Vice President 

Diane works as an investigator for the Office for Civil Rights (OCR) in Region 3, which is located in Philadelphia, Pa. Diane has worked for the Department of Education for 25 years. She holds a bachelor’s degree in Criminal Justice and serving others is her ministry. She joined AFGE in 1998. Diane has held previous positions of steward and area vice president for the former Local 2607. She joined the union because she saw firsthand how the union fought for employees in the 1199C Union which benefited her mother when she was laid off from working at the hospital for almost 30 years. Diane believes that people deserve to be treated fairly and that is why she has served in union positions for over 12 years. She strives to find the right resolutions for her complainants as an investigator in OCR and employees as a union official.

Brittany Coleman, Chief Steward 

Brittany is an attorney for the Office of Civil Rights (OCR) in Dallas. She is originally from Central Arkansas but grew up in the Dallas area. Brittany graduated from Washington University in St. Louis with a degree in political science and earned her juris doctor degree from Cornell Law School. Before joining OCR, Brittany worked as an in-house attorney at a life insurance company and as a staff attorney and director at two healthcare accounts receivable companies. During her time in the private sector, she saw how important union representation was for protecting the rights of hardworking employees and how vulnerable employees could be without union representation. Brittany joined OCR in July 2019 and AFGE shortly thereafter. She volunteers with organizations throughout the Dallas area because she believes in helping others have a fair shot to live up to their full potential. Brittany hopes that her work with AFGE will help her fellow Department of Education employees have fair working conditions so that they can reach their full professional potential and help the department continue to carry out its mission of ensuring equal access to education for our nation’s students.