BY JURRY TAALIB-DEEN
Journal Staff Writer
Perhaps Jerry Richardson didn’t realize that his 30 years of working, and fighting for employee rights, within the particular union he belong to, would influence his little girl, Makisha Richardson. Fast forward to the start of the 21st century, and well into it, Markisha Richardson told The Toledo Journal her dad’s advocacy for his union brothers, and sisters had rubbed off on her.
Union Rep for UAW Local 12, Jeep Unit, Toledo North Assembly Plant, Ms. Richardson is the first African American women to sit on the Executive Committee, which services as the employee bargaining committee. But the desire to fight for employee rights isn’t something that’s new for the 41 year old. Her fight started back in 1996, at the tender age of 19, when she worked for American Axle in Detroit, Michigan. Even while in her teens, she recognized the importance of joining, and working within the union, she said.
As the Great Recession of the early 21st century fell upon America, particularly the automotive industry, Ms. Richardson who, was an employee for the Chrysler Corporation at the time, had to seek other employment, like many of her co-workers.
“Thanks to President Obama for bailing out the automotive industry, I was able to go back into the field I loved,” she said.
In 2014, the college graduate with a business degree went to law school, and was hired back into Chrysler, as a part time worker.
“I figured I would enroll in law school part time, and work part time,” she said. But the spark that started with her dad, to help employees via the union, and was ignited in her during the end of the 20th century, reemerged in her, and the fight to make sure employee’s rights was protected, continued.
“Union leadership is traditionally held by men; it’s a good old boy network,” Ms. Richardson said. “But I fight for everyone no matter the gender, race, age, or whatever. The people know I’ll fight for their rights, and that was reflected by the diverse amount of people who voted for me,” she said.
Like many women, who rise in the ranks in the business world, Ms. Richardson too, experienced various types of sexism.
“Recently, I heard two men, who work under me, speaking in regards to running for union delegate, which I won. One man said to the other, ‘You would make a better rep than she would.’ It was as if, because of his gender, he would be a better rep for the people,” she said.
Regardless of the comments, and challenges that Ms. Richardson has faced, she said she loves her job, and after she completes law school, she will continue to fight for worker’s rights.