Activist of the Week: Meet the AFGE Activist Who Helped His Local Win 8 Awards

Francis Nichols III is the life of the party. It’s impossible not to notice him.

On a recent bus ride from Hilton Chicago to a local McDonalds where AFL-CIO Next Up Young Worker Summit participants would gather to protest its poverty wages, Francis took to the front of the bus and led fun chants that made a long ride exciting and memorable.

At one point he fished out his cell phone, trained the camera on the chanting crowd, turned it to himself and announced, “This is Nicki Revlon. Live from Bus Number 7.” The video clip was for his YouTube fans.

“I’m telling y’all right now. This bus ride is the best bus ride in my life,” he told his fellow riders, batting his miles-long eyelashes. Everybody squealed, nodding in agreement.

Francis is a federal pretrial services officer at the Pretrial Services Agency for the District of Columbia and a member of AFGE Local 1456. He recommends release conditions that will ensure the safety of the community for individuals that have been arrested in the District of Columbia while they are awaiting trial. He also writes reports for the Superior Court for the District of Columbia.

Having been at the agency since 2007, he firmly believes that every worker – especially if you are an LGBT working at a law enforcement agency like he is – needs to join a union. When he first started, it was a huge challenge. He felt out of place. He sought out AFGE and found that being a part of the union provided the protection he needed to do his job and also live his life the way he wanted.

“It’s less scrutiny against you and you can be free in what you want to do. You pay health insurance. You pay dental insurance. Now this is your job insurance to make sure that you keep going. The labor movement helps you be free,” he saidAFGE stands up for LGBT members through its AFGE Pride version!

Recognizing the gap between the union and the LGBT community at his agency, AFGE Local 1456 President Deandre Tyler last year reached out to Francis and asked him to help bridge the gap by becoming the local’s YOUNG coordinator and an advocate for the LGBT community. Since then, Francis has been on a roll.

A graduate of the Organizing Institute, he helps his and other locals in the area recruit new members and PAC contributors. He held the local’s first annual Hot Cocoa & Coats drive and collected more than 200 coats for D.C. residents in need. He held a school supply drive for kids, many of whom were children of AFGE members. He’s involved in the AFGE Pride program both at the national and local levels. He’s a YOUNG activist.

He enjoys being a part of AFGE so much he does most of these in his own time before his night shift starts at 4 p.m.

His passion and commitment to the labor movement earned him District 14 NVP Eric Bunn’s National Vice President Special Award earlier this year. The award is for a labor activist who contributes the most to the labor movement. At the award banquet, Local 1456 won seven other organizing and PAC awards*, and Francis played a major role in all of them.

“In every award, he was a major contributor,” said Local President Tyler. “We wouldn’t have any award without him. We wouldn’t be on this stage if it wasn’t for him.”

Tyler credits Francis’s personality, boldness, energy and commitment to the labor movement for his success.

“There are those who are involved and those who are committed. He’s committed,” Tyler added. He’s a blessing to have.”

Union activism makes Francis happy. His face lit up when asked what made him excited about the labor movement. 

“We call each other brothers and sisters. It’s just a great feeling to come to a family outside of your family and get so much accomplished and be able to target and knock down so many barriers that are put up against you. And we just face them and knock them down and win. I love being a part of the winning family,” he said.

* * *

The eight awards Local 1456 received:

  1. For outstanding efforts in political mobilization and activism in 2014.
  2. For outstanding efforts and achievements in gaining results in District 14’s 2014 legislative objectives through the Local Political Coordinator Program
  3. Community Service Award for exhibiting the greatest community involvement and impact in District 14 and the community.
  4. For having the highest District 14 membership in the Political Action Committee during 2014.
  5. For successfully energizing the next generation of District 14 Labor activists.
  6. National Vice President Special Award to Francis Nichols III
  7. Avis Buchanan Award for displaying superior political and community activism, while demonstrating the labor movement’s significance to the broader working public. 
  8. Jerry Hackney Award presented to Local 1456 President DeAndre Tyler for demonstrating the highest achievement in all aspects of labor unionism during 2014.

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