Event celebrates 100-year landmark case laying groundwork for workplace protections – National Consumers League

June 24, 2008

Contact: 202-835-3323, media@nclnet.org

Washington, DC—The National Consumers League will host a historic gathering of feminist scholars of the Progressive Era, labor activists, and leading gender discrimination lawyers at Georgetown Law Center in Washington, DC on June 25, 2008. The League, the nation’s oldest consumer organization, will mark the 100th Anniversary of Muller vs. Oregon, the first Supreme Court decision to uphold limits on the hours women workers could be forced to toil in factories and laundries. The experts gathered will also discuss the priority issues for labor and working families as Americans look toward new leadership in the White House.

Early leaders of the NCL worked in 1908 with then-attorney Louis Brandeis to write a successful brief in Muller to the Supreme Court. The brief was filled with data on the ill-effects of a 16- and 17-hour workday on women, their families, and their communities. The Muller brief was the first “Brandeis Brief,” a document that uses social evidence instead of law to make the case for legal reforms.

The event is the first time historians, lawyers, and labor leaders will come together to debate and discuss the effects of Muller on workplace regulations for women and ultimately all workers. Muller set the stage for the minimum wage laws and ultimately the landmark Fair Labor Standards Act, but was used in subsequent years by the courts to justify restricting women’s access to certain jobs.

Speakers at the conference include California Congresswoman Linda Sánchez, co-founder and chair of the Working Families Coalition in the House, Joslyn Williams, head of Metropolitan Washington, DC AFL-CIO, National Labor Relations Board member Wilma Liebman, Ann Brown, former Chairman of the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission, Mary Beth Maxwell, Executive Director of American Rights at Work and others. Event co-sponsors include Bernstein & Lipsett, AFL-CIO, UDC David A. Clarke School of Law, Alliance for Justice, United Food and Commercial Workers, and others.

The conference is free and open to the public. Online registration has closed. Please call Dana Brunson at (202) 835-3323 for more information or to secure your space at the conference.

WHAT: Muller v. Oregon Centennial Conference

Hosted by the National Consumers League

WHO: Academics, labor professionals, consumer and worker activists, students, and legal professionals are invited to attend this free one-day conference.

WHEN: June 25, 2008. Doors open at 8:15 am. Event runs from 9:15 am to 4:30 pm.

12:45 Keynote lunch Speaker: Rep. Linda Sánchez (D-CA)

WHERE: Georgetown University Law Center, McDonough Hall, Hart Auditorium

600 New Jersey Avenue, NW, Washington, DC 20001


About the National Consumers League

Founded in 1899, the National Consumers League is America’s pioneer consumer organization. Its mission is to protect and promote social and economic justice for consumers and workers in the United States and abroad. NCL is a private, nonprofit membership organization. For more information, visit www.nclnet.org.

Young Adults Going Without Health Coverage – National Consumers League

by Rebecca Burkholder, NCL VP for Health Policy

Young adults are the largest and fastest growing segment of the U.S. population without health insurance, according to a report recently issued by the Commonwealth Fund. Many young people are dropped from their parents’ policies or public programs when they turn 19. The Commonwealth Fund found that working young adults are much less likely than older adults to have access to health insurance through their employees (53 percent of 19-29 year olds compared to 74 percent of 30 – 64 year olds). Some states are addressing the problem; 20 have passed legislation requiring insurers to extend coverage for young adults up to the age of 24.

The lack of health coverage for young adults is just one more indication that our health care system is broken. For more than 60 years, NCL has advocated for comprehensive health coverage for all Americans. We now join many other groups and coalitions in calling for a national health plan. NCL’s LifeSmarts program can play a valuable role in raising awareness and educating those young adults who may soon face loss of health coverage. Through education, and national, state and local efforts, we can move closer to ensuring that all American have access to quality health care, no matter what their age.

Don’t buy anything for the 2009 digital TV transition until you read this! – National Consumers League

Congress has required that full-power broadcast stations transmit only digital signals on February 17, 2009, and in some instances consumers may end up wasting money due to confusion or misinformation.

You may have heard about the upcoming digital transition and wondered whether it affects you and what you need to do to prepare for it. Staff at the National Consumers League recently conducted an informal survey of Washington area retailers and found that many employees at the stores that sell digital converter boxes aren’t telling the whole story to consumers.

The employees we talked to, posing as consumers asking questions about the transition, got some of the most basic information correct: consumers with cable or satellite services will not be affected by the DTV transition. So if you pay for your TV programming and will continue to do so, don’t worry, and don’t buy anything new.

However, every employee that we talked to in our experiment failed to mention that many TVs out there already have digital tuners built-in, and those will not require a converter box. It is not easy to tell if a TV is analog or digital other than checking the owner’s manual.  One indicator that a TV is receiving digital signals – and is thus a digital TV – is that bad reception results in pixilation rather than a “snow storm.” Most TVs manufactured before 2004, and some manufactured after that year, are analog and will require the converter equipment. You should check your owner’s manual or look up your TV model online to see if it already has a digital tuner or is an analog TV.

While researching the issue, we came across some information worth sharing:

  • Be wary of retailer employees trying to tell you that you “need” to buy a whole new TV for the transition. This is not necessary, and if you get a government $40 coupon online you should only have to pay $10 or $20 for a converter box.

Using a coupon mentioned in the last tip can be tricky. Here’s why:

  • You should order one early! It can take 3-4 weeks or even longer to receive a coupon after you request one. Also, it is projected that by August 2008 the coupons will run out unless something is done to make more available.
  • But not too early!! Many retailers don’t have the converter boxes in stock, and the coupons expire 90 days after they’re mailed, so make sure that you identify a retailer that has them in stock.
  • If you are going to get a converter box, consider getting one with analog pass-through. These will allow your TV to pick up both analogue and digital broadcasts. Some low-power stations will continue to broadcast in analogue after February 17, 2009. It might also be useful if you are near a border and receive broadcasts from Canada or Mexico. Broadcasters in these countries are not required to switch to digital, and may not do so for some time.

Bad advice from retailers on DTV conversion could cost consumers millions – National Consumers League

June 17, 2008

Contact: 202-835-3323, media@nclnet.org

Washington, DC—Consumers aren’t getting accurate information from retailers about converting their televisions from analog to digital (DTV conversion), and that will cost them dearly, according to the National Consumers League (NCL). In the past week, NCL staff conducted an informal survey of Washington, DC-area major television retailers to test whether consumers inquiring about the DTV conversion were being given the right advice.

“We are just months away from the transition to digital television, and the fact that consumers whose screens will go blank come February 17, 2009 aren’t being given accurate information is frankly shocking,” said NCL Executive Director Sally Greenberg.

Over the past week, NCL staffers called or made in-person visits to seven1 major TV retailers in the Washington, DC area to inquire about the DTV transition, how to prepare for it, and whether they need converter boxes. While the boxes cost around $50 – $60 retail, the federal government is providing two free coupons for each household, worth $40 each, for use toward the purchase of up to two digital-to-analog converter boxes. Retailers are supposed to tell customers about the coupon and encourage them to apply before the consumer invests in the full cost of the box, which could save up to $80.00 per household. But NCL found that some stores’ employees failed to mention the TV Converter Box Coupon Program run by the federal government.

Adding insult to injury, the salespeople also told NCL staff that all consumers who don’t subscribe to a paid television service (cable or satellite) would require the converter box equipment; this is wrong. Most late-model televisions, particularly those manufactured since 2004, are likely to be digital and do not require the converters. In one case, an employee said that any television that does not have a flat screen will require the box, another glaring inaccuracy.

“We are particularly concerned about elderly, low-income, and non-native English speakers,” Greenberg said. “They may be more likely to have older TVs that use only an analog signal, and they desperately need the savings these coupons provide. Our survey suggests they won’t get these savings unless retailers do a far better job of training their sales staff.”

Greenberg also noted, “Even consumers who are aware of the transition and do their homework about what questions to ask the retailers may be getting information that is inaccurate, and that could cost them a bundle.”

NCL is asking retailers to go back to the drawing board, to set up rigorous training for all of their sales force, and to include training protocols for any new hires that are selling televisions and TV equipment. The sales staff should provide the following information to consumers:

  • If you have cable or satellite, you don’t need a converter box.
  • If you have a television manufactured after 2004, you very likely don’t need a converter box, but check the television and/or manual to be sure that you have a digital tuner.  Some televisions manufactured before 2004 have digital tuners, but not very many.
  • Flat screen televisions and high definition monitors may be analog so consult your manual or the TV itself
  • If you do need a converter box, you can apply for two $40 coupons per household at www.DTV.gov. Converter boxes typically cost from $50 to $60 so it pays to apply for the coupon, which you can do online, by mail, by phone or by fax. Your coupon should arrive within two weeks, and they expire 90 days after they are mailed.

1 Radio Shack, Wal-Mart, Best Buy, Target, Circuit City, Kmart, Sears


About the National Consumers League
Founded in 1899, the National Consumers League is America’s pioneer consumer organization. Its mission is to protect and promote social and economic justice for consumers and workers in the United States and abroad. NCL is a private, nonprofit membership organization. For more information, visit www.nclnet.org.

World Day Against Child Labor – National Consumers League

By Paula Osborn, NCL Public Policy Intern

Paula is a child labor public policy intern at the National Consumers League. She’s from Albuquerque, New Mexico and, this fall, will begin her senior at Johns Hopkins University, where she’s studying Psychological and Brain Sciences, with a minor in Spanish for the Professions and a pre-law concentration.

My mother always used to tell me to clean my plate at dinnertime because there were starving children in China who would love to have the food I had in front of me. Last week, I learned that mothers should also be telling their kids to go to appreciate being able to go to school every day because there are 72 million children all over the world who would love to be in their place.

Last week, child labor advocates honored World Day Against Child Labor with a panel discussion to address this year’s theme: Education – The Right Response to Child Labor. A dozen panelists elaborated on education being the key to poverty reduction, attaining social justice, and enhancing skills for productivity and economic growth. Panelists argued that ensuring basic education for all is the most direct and cost-effective way of eliminating child labor and, in turn, the elimination of child labor is a prerequisite for any country’s fast economic development.

An excerpt from “Rescuing Emmanuel,” a film by Len Morris, showed street children from Nairobi exclaiming their desire to go to school, a luxury they were not afforded. Millions of children living on the streets have the same dream. To learn more, visit the International Labour Organization.

A few months ago, I was looking for possible internships for the summer, when I came across the National Consumers League, which needed a Child Labor Policy Intern for its Child Labor Coalition for the summer. I was immediately intrigued; I am very interested in protecting human rights, especially children because they cannot help themselves. At Johns Hopkins, my focus is child labor in Latin America and the United States, especially focusing on child labor in agriculture.

In my first few weeks at NCL, I have been—and will continue to—going to many conferences, events, and panel discussions on child labor-related issues, which I will be relaying back to you through my blogs. Stay tuned!

An Intern’s Insight: Introducing Tara Moore – National Consumers League

By: Tara Moore, Communications Intern

Tara is interning this summer at NCL’s Communications Department. This fall, she will begin her junior year as a Magazine Journalism and Political Science major at Temple University’s School of Communications and Theater in Philadelphia, Pa.

Two months ago I received an acceptance letter from the Institute on Political Journalism at Georgetown University with The Fund for American Studies for this summer. I was very pleased to learn that through this prestigious program, I’d be interning either on Capitol Hill for the summer or at an advocacy group somewhere in the DC area as well as taking two Georgetown courses: Ethical Perspectives in the Media, and Economics in Public Policy.

At the beginning of May, I received even more great news about the National Consumers League’s interest in my resume as a possible intern for this summer.After a pleasant phone interview with the Communications Department, I started to think about how this position would benefit me and now that I’m here, I cannot think of anything that I won’t gain from this experience!

I mean truly we all need some knowledge on how to be a savvy consumer.

NCL has a clear mission, to protect and promote social and economic justice for consumers and workers in the U.S. and abroad, that can easily be seen in the consumer education projects the League is constantly working on: its work on Mortgage education, teen financial and consumer literacy, and even information about traveling sales jobs. This summer I’ll be working with the Communications Department, helping out with their efforts to spread the word about all the activities NCL is involved in, so you’ll be hearing more from me later!

Acupuncture, Anyone? – National Consumers League

By Ria Eapen, Health Policy Associate

Many consumers rely upon conventional medicine to treat various ailments. However, others use complementary and alternative medicine, such as therapies like acupuncture and homeopathy and products like dietary supplements and herbs.


Feel free to check out the federal government’s agency known as the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine, or NCCAM. This agency is 1 of 27 institutes and centers that make up the National Institutes of Health (NIH) within the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

If you would like to learn more about CAM, including some tips on how to discuss your options with your physician, please visit: https://nccam.nih.gov/timetotalk/forpatients.htm.

How about you, what’s your preferred method of treatment?

Debt is a Pain, Literally – National Consumers League

The Associated Press has reported that millions of Americans who are in debt also have serious health problems: ulcers, migraines, and severe depression.

Experts say that half of Americans state that the cost of housing – paying their mortgage or rent – is a major source of stress. And who could blame them? The thought of losing one’s home – and sense of security – is a painful one.

NCL’s Mortgage Town site offers a bunch of tips to help consumers avoid the nightmare of losing their homes. We provide a step-by-step guide to help consumers through the process of buying, and keeping their dream homes.

Salmonella Outbreak! – National Consumers League

Supermarkets, fast-food chains, and restaurants have pulled certain raw red plum, red Roma, and red round tomatoes, and products containing these raw, red tomatoes from their shelves and menus following an outbreak of salmonella.

Most people infected with salmonella suffer experience diarrhea, fever and abdominal cramps 12 to 72 hours after infection, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Yuck!

The Food and Drug Administration has posted a list of states which have not been associated with the salmonella outbreak.

Wishing Sen. Kennedy a Speedy Recovery! – National Consumers League

NCL Executive Director, Sally Greenberg, and Chair of the Board of Directors, Jane King sent Sen. Edward M. Kennedy a letter to wish him well in his recovery. The Associated Press reported that Kennedy “felt like a million bucks” following his operation to treat his malignant brain tumor.

Those who feel so inclined may send Kennedy a few words of encouragement and other warm wishes by writing:

The Honorable Edward Kennedy
315 Russell Senate Office Building
Washington, DC 20510

Kennedy has long championed the rights of consumers and workers, and in 1973, he was the first recipient of our Trumpeter Award, which honors the work of leaders who have fought for social justice, and consumers’ rights to a fair and safe workplace.

We all wish him a quick recovery, and look forward to his return to the Senate!