Merrillee Milstein was a prominent Connecticut political activist and was married to Communist Party USA member Brian Steinberg. She served on the board of directors of DemocracyWorks and in the late 1990s was active in Scholars and Writers for Social Justice. She died in 2008 aged 61.
Long activist career
Merrilee Milstein, was an activist since high school, becoming a member of the Hotel Employees and Restaurant Employees union (HERE) in 1968 while working as a banquet waitress. From 1972 to 1994 she served as vice president of New England Health Care Employees 1199. She was an organizer and political director, and led the state sector of the union. In 1982 she served as chair of the state’s Permanent Commission on the Status of Women.
During her first organizing drive at Yale-New Haven Hospital, she met Sid Taylor, who was then chair of the Connecticut Communist Party. When Milstein accepted the Amistad Award from the CPUSA's People’s Weekly World in 2006, she said Taylor taught her two big lessons: first, that the "worker is always right", and second, that "unity and struggle can win big gains".
Milstein helped organize thousands of workers, led strikes and was arrested more than 90 times. She was a founding member and secretary-treasurer of Legislative Electoral Action Project (LEAP) and served on the executive committee of Northeast Action.
Worked for Miles Rapoport
When Miles Rapoport, now director of DEMOS, was Connecticut secretary of state, he hired Milstein as his Deputy Secretary. He delegated her leadership of the implementation of the National Voter Registration Act and other electoral reforms.
In 1996 Milstein was appointed deputy regional director of the AFL-CIO, leading efforts to build labor councils and state federations in the Northeast. She was District of Columbia coordinator for the Immigrant Workers Freedom Ride in 2003, and co-ordinated Labor 2004 in New Hampshire- allegedly helping New Hampshire change from a red to a blue state. After leaving the AFL-CIO, while being treated for cancer, Milstein earned a master’s degree from American University in organizational development, and certification in Leadership Coaching from Georgetown.