Originally from a large Irish Catholic family in Waukegan IL, John Drew started working at the American Motors (AMC) plant in Kenosha in 1974. He worked as a spot welder on the line and quickly became a union activist. He was elected steward, chief steward, and executive board member in UAW Local 72, which was the largest and most influential labor organization in the state at the time.
In Local 72, John consistently fought for social and economic justice issues.
Along with his colleagues Jon Melrod and Tod Ohnstad, John formed the Fighting Times, a caucus in the Local that exposed racist and sexist practices of management in the plant. Their activism led to AMC financing a multimillion dollar lawsuit to try to squash their voices. But John and the Fighting Times prevailed, and union justice won the day.
John was a part of and later led the UAW Local 72 Bargaining Committee.
John has also been a major force organizing UAW members and retirees to support progressive candidates that would fight for working peoples’ interests.
John was elected Vice President of Local 72 in 1990, serving with the legendary Rudy Kuzel. Then in 1996, John became President of the Local and continued to fight to keep the Kenosha Chrysler Engine plant open.
In 2004, John went to work for the UAW Regional office representing workers in plants throughout the Milwaukee, Racine, and Kenosha area.
John’s community engagement led him to an appointment by former Governor Jim Doyle to the University of Wisconsin Board of Regents where he served from 2008-2014.
After his retirement in 2018, Drew remained active and is currently the Vice Chair of the UAW Wisconsin State CAP Council and Vice President of UAW Local 72.
John has a bachelor’s degree from the George Meany Center in Labor Studies and a master’s degree in Industrial and Labor Relations from UW Milwaukee.
John is married to Lauren Baker, a union and community activist and they have one son, Nick. Nick graduated from Milwaukee Public Schools and UW Madison and is a professional videographer, and union member, in Chicago.