While being interviewed for this story, Erika Wolf was interrupted by a visitor to her office looking for a sleeping bag left at the state Capitol during the 17-day occupation that ended March 3. She directed the visitor to an offsite storage facility.
It was all in a day's work for Wolf, advocacy field organizer of United Council, the UW students' lobby. She's been in the thick of some of the strangest and most exciting moments in recent state history. She was there day and night for most of the Capitol occupation, and played a key role in persuading others to leave so as not to cede the "moral authority" that came from not breaking any laws.
Wolf, who will turn 26 on Friday, is a native of Ohio who has attended the UW-Milwaukee and UW-Stevens Point. She worked briefly for the United Council in 2008 before landing an organizer job last July. Her job is to get students involved in the political process, but Scott Walker has completely changed what that means. Now her biggest challenge is finding enough things for them to do.
"What's happened has been pretty incredible," says Wolf, reflecting on how the elusive goal of uniting various left-leaning groups has become a reality. "Everybody who's involved in the progressive movement has really come together in a way we've never seen before."
Besides opposing budget initiatives that affect students, Wolf is organizing against a Voter ID bill that would make it harder for many students to vote. And she's now "capturing contact info" for students before they leave for the summer, to pull them into fresh opportunities to be involved.
The United Council has about a dozen paid employees, supported by a $2 per semester fee to UW students. Wolf notes that some students "see political issues as inherently partisan." She disagrees: "The work I'm doing is not anti-Walker, it's pro-student."