I am pleased to share a “farewell message” from Irv Miljoner, District Director of the U.S. Department of Labor, Wage and Hour Division/Long Island District Office. Irv, a longtime friend and all-around great human being,
Irv is retiring after 44 (yes, that’s 44) years of federal service. As a former government employee (18 years with the Nassau County Department of Social Services – nothing compared to Irv’s tenure), I fully appreciate what it takes to dedicate one’s professional life to public service.
Without further ado, here’s what Irv has to say…
After 44 years of federal service, including 24 years as District Director for the Long Island office of the U.S. Department of Labor / Wage and Hour Division, I will be retiring on January 3, 2019.
Along with the simple passage of time, there have been some mounting challenges, forces and factors, compelling my departure and convincing me that it’s the right time to go.
I have always believed deeply in the meaningfulness and responsibilities of public service. My two favorite quotes about government service comes from two presidents.
1) In response to critics describing the evils of government, Andrew Jackson said:
“There are no necessary evils in government. Its evils exist only in its abuses. If it would confine itself to equal protection, and, as Heaven does its rains, showers its favors alike on the high and the low, the rich and the poor, it would be an unqualified blessing.”
2) Commenting on the most important functions of government, Gerald Ford said:
“The most important aspect of government is to be sufficiently responsible to the people. If we don’t make government responsive to the people, we don’t make it believable, and we must make government believable if we are to have a functioning democracy.”
As a matter of fact, I started my federal career right out of college, under President Gerald Ford and Secretary of Labor Peter Brennan (from Long Island). In my government worklife, I’ve been through 8 different presidential administrations (12, if you count double terms), and 15 Secretaries of Labor. When I started at DOL, I worked with some of the pioneers of the agency – folks who started working here when the minimum wage law was first enacted (note: the first Minimum Wage was 25¢ per hour when the Fair Labor Standards Act was passed 80 years ago in 1938. It had just been raised from $1.60 to $2 per hour when I started my career in 1974).
So I have the benefit of perspective. I tell people who may be concerned about change, and particularly the turmoil that change in government can bring … that LIFE IS CHANGE. In government, change involves politics. The pendulum swings on policy and processes, then it swings back again. I’ve seen it over and over again. What doesn’t change are the vital missions of government, and the need for us — who commit their careers to this noble work — to be able to carry out those missions, fairly and fully, responsively, and with justice for all.
Statesmen, historians, academics and many others have said that the Fair Labor Standards Act (that minimum wage law) is among the greatest pieces of social legislation in American History. I like to say that our labor laws are among the things that define and distinguish us as a civilized society. I have tried to live up to the mandate and this office’s responsibility for labor law enforcement on Long Island, applying the law affirmatively, but fairly and reasonably for the greater good..
I have enjoyed the journey that has been this public service. Along with the case work, I have particularly enjoyed the outreach and engagement with stakeholders. That includes the many workshops and presentations to advocates, professionals (lawyers, accountants, HR professionals, etc.), and other stakeholders, participation in task forces and committees with other organizations, public forums, media interviews (including frequent contributions to the Newsday workplace column), writing labor-themed messages (e.g. on the Triangle Fire, Workers Memorial Day, Labor Day, and other occasions) and guest instructing at area colleges, for whom I’ve also done career counseling. I encourage students and others to pursue a career in public service, for the reasons that I’ve described as having added so much purpose to my life.
When people wish me a happy, healthy and fruitful retirement, I thank them, but I also know that I’ve already enjoyed the fruits of my Labors.
I will miss the mission, the action, and most of all… the people (like you) I’ve met along the way. I do intend to stay connected, and continue doing some things in the same vein.
So, Irv, this blog post comes with all good wishes for you in your next adventure. You will be missed by so many who have relied on your guidance and expertise. To quote Roy Rogers, “Happy trails to you, till we meet again.” Your friend, Mindy Wolfle.