The TAA command center in the state Capitol on Sunday.
Sunday was by far the slowest day of the week-long protests against Gov. Scott Walker's attempts to strip most public unions of their public bargaining rights. The rain and the snow kept turnout relatively low, while many took the opportunity to catch up on some sleep.
But the protests were far from done. Crowds packed the inside of the Capitol building, chanting and beating drums as they have all week. And the command centers were abuzz with activity, although much of it was hush-hush.
The Teaching Assistants' Association of UW-Madison -- the group to kick off the protests on Monday when about a thousand members delivered "Valentine" messages to Gov. Walker -- has commandeered a conference room on the fourth floor of the Capitol since Tuesday.
Members have been there round the clock since then. "We haven't been kicked out," says Magda Konieczna, a TAA member who studies and teaches journalism. "Nobody has told us we need to leave that room." (However, the TAA was denied use of a room for a member meeting Sunday evening.)
On Sunday afternoon, there were about 20 people inside the room, most of them sitting at laptops and talking on cell phones. Visitors like U.S. Rep. Tammy Baldwin dropped by to show support.
The volunteers have divided into certain tasks. Some monitor media and work to counter any false claims on blogs and social media. Others are working on self-policing the protest, making sure no one gets out of hand and that garbage is cleaned up.
"This is a beautiful building and we're not out to tear things down," says Peter Rickman, another TAA member who studies public affairs and the labor movement. "This is not a party. It's a peaceful occupation, a work of democracy."
A few blocks away at the group's West Gilman Street office, others are organizing phone calls to people in swing Senate districts putting pressure on legislators to vote against the bill. "It's been a lot about what is necessary to win the fight," Rickman says.
But the organizing has not been easy. "This is kind of crazy. It's organizing on the fly," Rickman says. "Our generation probably knows the least about the labor movement, but we believe strongest in collective action. You're seeing a latent activization of that."
The TAA operates under the dichotomy of putting forth the idea of not having one leader and yet it relies on just a few members as spokespeople. The association represents about 2,800 graduate student teaching assistants and researchers, about 600 of whom have been active in the protests. Meetings have included a couple of hundred people.
The ideal is democracy and consensus in decisions, but there is also mistrust and secrecy at play. A meeting Sunday evening to discuss, among other things, whether the TAs would teach on Monday was closed to Isthmus.
Rickman says there is an impromptu executive committee of sorts, made up of six to eight people. "If nothing else, we have to have an agenda for our meetings," he says. "People in our union are both workers and students. That's why we've had people jump in and out of roles."
A block away from Capitol Square in the Concourse Hotel at least five conference rooms had been occupied by various labor groups, including the AFL-CIO, the Wisconsin Education Association Council, and the Service Employees International Union. In each room, workers type away at laptops and talk on cell phones.
But an AFL-CIO spokeswoman who would not speak on the record - declined to comment on the coordination efforts. And at Monona Terrace, Madison Teachers Inc. held a membership meeting to vote on when to go back to work. That meeting was also closed to the press.