Preventive Care – A Luxury We Should All Be Afforded – National Consumers League

by Mimi Johnson, NCL Health Policy Associate

Taking center stage in Washington, DC and across the country these days is health reform, which presents an opportunity to afford all Americans access to preventive services. With its largest supporter now absent, Senator Kennedy’s legacy as a champion for a healthier America will be felt as discussions ensue. Senator Kennedy, and the HELP Committee he led for so many years, produced the first health reform bill earlier this summer, packed with expanded preventive services and opportunities for health promotion – including resources for public-private partnerships to help educate consumers about health and safety issues.

Senator Kennedy felt all Americans had a right to health care. He increased access to care by creating and improving such important programs as Medicare and Medicaid, and the Americans with Disabilities Act. Kennedy advocated that everyone have the opportunity to use the same government insurance he was afforded as a Member of Congress.

While I do not have access to the same insurance Senator Kennedy had, I am fortunate enough to have coverage. In fact, I recently had the luxury of visiting my primary care physician, something millions of Americans go without year after year. Because I am afforded the opportunity for an annual well-visit, I see it as my duty to go. I am, however, in the minority. A study by the University of Pittsburgh and RAND found that only 1/5th of the US population receive an annual preventive health exam.

The importance of primary care and prevention to our overall health, and the sustainability of our health care system, is too great to put a price tag on. In fact, just look back at our recent post about the free medical clinic in LA; the long lines show that people recognize the need to check-in and get a check-up. It is very important that we not only have access to a check-up, but that we all have the ability to check-in with a health care professional who can talk with us about our life – ranging from our diet and exercise, to stress, and the medications we are on or allergies we have.

If you are lucky enough to have insurance – take advantage of it and schedule your annual check-up and check-in with your health professional.

And thanks to Senator Kennedy for all of his hard work to make this country a healthier place.

2009 Trumpeter Awards: National Consumers League to honor Labor Secretary Solis, CBS News’ Kroft for careers in service – National Consumers League

September 29, 2009

Contact: 202-835-3323,

Washington, D.C.—The National Consumers League will honor United States Secretary of Labor Hilda L. Solis and award-winning journalist Steve Kroft with its highest honor, the Trumpeter Award, this week on Capitol Hill. The Trumpeter Awards Dinner and Reception will bring together a diverse group of representatives of labor unions, advocates, legislators, organizations, and industries touched by the two advocates’ esteemed careers. The advocacy organization, which honored Senator Edward Kennedy with its first Trumpeter award in 1973, has recognized leaders who are not afraid to speak out for social justice and for the rights of consumers and workers for more than 30 years.

“The Trumpeter Award is NCL’s highest honor, given to leaders who are not afraid to speak out for social justice and for the rights of consumers. No one fits that description better than Hilda Solis and Steve Kroft,” said NCL Executive Director Sally Greenberg. “Solis’ dedication to improving the quality of life for workers in the United States, and Kroft’s dedication to consumer-minded investigative journalism have earned them this year’s Trumpeter Award.”

NCL will also celebrate the career of San Francisco business journalist Lynn Jimenez with its Florence Kelley Consumer Leadership Award, an honor named for NCL’s first general secretary that is given to grassroots leaders in consumer education.

The Trumpeter event will feature a reception, dinner, and speaking appearances by the three honorees, as well as:

Larry Cohen, President, Communications Workers of America 
Herb Weisbaum
, past Trumpeter recipient and The “ConsumerMan” on
Michelle Singletary, 
past Trumpeter recipient and syndicated columnist
Jane King
, NCL Board of Directors, Chair
Sally Greenberg
, NCL Executive Director

Event Details

What: National Consumers League’s 2009 Trumpeter Awards Dinner

When: Thursday, October 1, 2009, 6 p.m. Reception, 7 p.m. Dinner

Where: Hyatt Regency Washington on Capitol Hill, 400 New Jersey Avenue, NW,

Washington, DC.

Questions or to RSVP: Larry Bostian, National Consumers League 202-835-3323


About the National Consumers League

The National Consumers League, founded in 1899, is America’s pioneer consumer organization. Our mission is to protect and promote social and economic justice for consumers and workers in the United States and abroad. For more information, visit

Consumer group to honor media leaders with ethics in telecommunications awards – National Consumers League

September 29, 2009

Contact: 202-835-3323,

Washington, D.C.— Media advocates who work daily to empower individuals and promote diversity and democracy in media will gather at The Riverside Church in New York City on Sept. 30 to examine ethics in telecommunications. The 27th annual Ethics in Telecommunications Lecture and Awards, featuring the Rev. Michael Kinnamon, General Secretary of the National Council of Churches in the U.S.A., brings together media advocates from across the country and honors individuals whose work embodies the principles and values of advocating for the public interest through social communications.


What: The 27th Annual Everett C. Parker Ethics in Telecommunications Lecture and

Awards Reception

When: September 30, 20093:30 PM

Where: The Riverside Church New York City, 490 Riverside Drive, New York, NY 10027

Why: To honor excellence in media ethics and consumer reporting.

This year’s honorees include:

Patti Miller, Vice President of Public Policy, Sesame Workshop, recipient of the Parker Award.  Sesame Workshop is devoted to developing innovative and educational content for television, radio, print, and interactive media that makes a meaningful difference in children’s development.  The award is given in recognition of an individual whose work embodies the principles and values of the public interest in telecommunications.

Sam Simon, Chairman, Amplify Public Affairs; Fellow, Intersections; and Founder and Former President, TRAC, recipient of the Donald H. McGannon Award.  Simon is being honored for his lifetime of media advocacy work on behalf of minority consumers. The McGannon Award is given in recognition of special contributions in advancing the roles of women and persons of color in the media.

Ben Popken and Meghann Marco, Co-Executive Editors of the popular blog “The Consumerist.” This award is given in recognition of efforts to educate and enable consumers to use technology as a toll of empowerment.

The event is free and open to the public, but an RSVP is requested.  Online registration is available here or for more information, contact Jeff Woodar at

The Everett C. Parker Ethics in Telecommunications Lecture was created in 1982 to recognize OC, Inc. founder the Rev. Dr. Everett C. Parker and his pioneering work as an advocate for the public’s rights in broadcasting. It is the only lecture in the country to examine telecommunications and the digital age from an ethical perspective. Past speakers include network presidents, Congressional leaders, FCC chairs and commissioners, as well as academics, cable and telephone executives and journalists. It is funded by the communications industry, particularly broadcasters, along with the communication offices of major faith groups. The Parker Lecture is sponsored by the United Church of Christ’s Office of Communication (OC, Inc.) and the Telecommunications Research and Action Center (TRAC), a program of the National Consumers League.


About the National Consumers League and TRAC

The National Consumers League, founded in 1899, is America’s pioneer consumer organization. Our mission is to protect and promote social and economic justice for consumers and workers in the United States and abroad. For more information, visit

The Telecommunications Research & Action Center is a non-profit education and advocacy organization for residential and small business communications consumers. TRAC produces consumer guides, comparison charts, brochures, and online content dedicated to helping consumers navigate the often complex world of communications devices and services. TRAC is based in Washington, DC

Swine Flu 2.0 – Are You Prepared? – National Consumers League

As the new school year is well underway, the second wave of swine flu (H1N1 virus) has become a major concern for health officials, school administrators, teachers, and parents.  It was at the end of the previous academic year that the flu first struck with vengeance, and caused schools across the country to shut their doors as they tried to quell its spread.

The biggest fear and danger with the H1N1 virus is that it has hit school-aged children the hardest.  So, what can you and your children do to stave off the flu?

Practice Good Hygiene

  • Wash Hands (and send kids with bottles of sanitizer in addition to their other office supplies)
  • Cover Coughs & Sneezes (NOT with your hand, but with a tissue or arm)

Stay Home if Sick

  • Keep kids home if they are sick, ESPECIALLY with a high fever, vomiting, or diarrhea
  • Ensure kids are fever-free for at least 24 hours (WITHOUT medication) before returning to school
  • Do NOT go to the emergency room if you think you or your child has a case of the flu (you are likely to catch it while at the ER); call your doctor or a health hotline


  • Get kids immunized against the seasonal flu as soon as the vaccine becomes available this fall
  • Keep your eyes and ears open about the H1N1 vaccination, which is currently being tested

Check with your local health officials and health care professionals should you have any questions or concerns about the H1N1 flu in your community.

Consumer groups oppose Ticketmaster-Live Nation merger – National Consumers League

September 28, 2009

Contact: 202-835-3323,
Washington, DC — Several national consumer organizations have written to the Department of Justice opposing the Ticketmaster-Live Nation merger, arguing that it would turn the “already questionable ticket selling industry into an even less competitive environment for consumers.”
The three groups signing the letter – the National Consumers League, Consumer Federation of America and Consumer Action – are concerned that the companies individually already own extremely large shares of the sectors in the live entertainment event industry, and that the merging of these two giants should be closely and skeptically reviewed under anti-trust law. This could turn the already questionable ticket selling industry into an even less competitive environment for consumers.
“Buying tickets to live performances in today’s marketplace is fraught with pitfalls for consumers. Tickets are put on the secondary market routinely – and marked up two to three times their value before consumers ever have a chance to buy them at face value. There is no transparency in the market, and this merger would only make the problem worse,” said Sally Greenberg, Executive Director of the National Consumers League. 
“If allowed to merge, these firms would control so much of the music marketplace that no one could stop them from raising ticket prices and service fees, meaning fans would pay,” said Linda Sherry, Consumer Action director of national priorities. “No single company should have that much control over access to live entertainment.”
The letter opposes the merger on two grounds:
First, the groups say the merger would create a “virtual monopoly in the ticketing industry.” Some industry experts estimate that Ticketmaster, which has secured its place in the market through long-term contracts with its clients, controls up to 70 or 80 percent of all concert ticket sales. Live Nation, which entered the ticket-selling market in early 2009, “has already demonstrated its potential to become Ticketmaster’s only significant competitor.”
Second, the letter states that the merger would “create a massive entertainment giant, Live Nation Entertainment, which would hold significant market shares in the artist management, venue operation, event promotion, ticketing, and secondary ticketing sectors of the live entertainment event industry.”

Ticket Sales Merger Under Scrutiny – National Consumers League

Consumers who purchase tickets to concerts, sporting events, and other live entertainment may be interested in what consumer groups fear would result in a monopoly in the industry: a proposed merger between giants Ticketmaster and Live Nation.

Consumer advocates are warning the Department of Justice’s Antitrust Division that a merger between Ticketmaster, which already has a major hold on the market, controlling up to 70 or 80 percent of all concert ticket sales, and Live Nation, a new company that appears to have the potential to become Ticketmaster’s only significant competitor, would be a negative for consumers.

A merger, say advocates from National Consumers League, Consumer Federation of America, and Consumer Action, would leave consumers with few options and vulnerable to hikes in ticket prices, service fees, and the negative consequences of monopolies. To read the groups’ letter to DOJ, click here.

Retirement USA Seeking to Improve System – National Consumers League

By Sally Greenberg, NCL Executive Director

Consumer organizations do so much great work in the financial services area — working against predatory loans, fighting outrageous fees and surcharges on credit cards, demanding truth in lending and transparency in credit scores. But often our attention is focused on the here and now. What about working to ensure that consumers have a secure and adequate retirement?

NCL was invited to a meeting last week with leaders of the Retirement USA, a group formed by the Economic Policy Institute, the Pension Rights Center, the National Committee to Preserve Social Security and Medicare, and the Service Employees International Union, which holds a seat on the NCL Board. Retirement USA’s goal is to get widespread agreement on a series of principles that move Americans toward a far more sound retirement system than what exists today.

The facts about Americans entering retirement are grim:

  • Only half of full-time private-sector employees participate in a retirement system.  The participation rate drops to 45 percent if part-time employees are included.
  • Only 20 percent of American private-sector workers participate in traditional pension plans that provide guaranteed, lifetime benefits.
  • 30 percent of American private-sector workers rely entirely on 401(k) plans to supplement Social Security.
  • 2/3 of 401(k) plan investments are in stocks, and stocks have lost more than half their value since 2007.
  • Half of all workers with 401(k)-type plans had less than $25,000 in their accounts – before the stock market meltdown – and the median 401(k) balance for workers over the age of 55 was only $40,000.
  • 64 percent of older Americans depend on Social Security for more than half of their income, and one of five receives all of their income from Social Security.
  • Social Security benefits for the average retiree are now $13,863, just barely more than the minimum wage.
  • Half of people age 65 and older receive income of less than $17,382 a year from all sources.

Retirement USA has laid out a series of important principles that would – if adopted – help to secure adequate retirement for all workers:

  • Universal coverage – every worker should be covered by a retirement plan in addition to Social Security.
  • Secure retirement – retirement shouldn’t be a gamble; workers should be able to count on a steady lifetime stream of retirement income to supplement Social Security.
  • Adequate Income – everyone should have an adequate retirement income after a lifetime of work.
  • Shared responsibility – employers, employees, and the government should share this responsibility.
  • Required contributions – employees and employers should be required to contribute a specified percent of pay; government should subsidize lower income workers.
  • Contributions to the system should be pooled and professionally managed to minimize risk.
  • Payouts should only be permitted before retirement except for permanent disability.
  • Benefits should be paid out over the lifetime of retirees and not given in a lump sum.
  • Benefits should be portable when workers change jobs.
  • Voluntary contributions should be permitted.
  • Efficient and transparent administration of benefits by a government agency or a private nonprofit.
  • There ought to be effective oversight of the new system by a single government regulator dedicated solely to promoting retirement security.

The National Consumers League supports these principles, especially in light of the dire economic reality most American workers face when they retire. The League’s early leaders were strong supporters of Social Security, which is a lifeline to older Americans, but was never intended to be their sole support. Retirement USA has laid out the blueprint for reform. Now it is time for consumer groups, unions. and others to make that blueprint a reality.

LifeSmarts 16th Season Underway! – National Consumers League

LifeSmarts – the ultimate consumer challenge, has opened its 16th season, and the online competition, which tests teens in the areas of personal finance, consumer rights and responsibilities, health and safety, technology and the environment, officially has officially begun! We have been super busy this summer! LifeSmarts has begun to implement a number of upgrades and additions to the national program, Web site, and national competition. A major addition to the program and to is the creation of LifeSmarts University, a virtual classroom that complements that LifeSmarts program. “LifeSmarts U” will be live September 21, and it will include lessons in the Tech Lab as well as five brand new personal finance lessons, found in the Finance Department, that were developed thanks to an unrestricted educational grant from Visa. As a re-branded and more extensive version of the current LifeSmarts Tech Lab, LifeSmarts U will eventually feature lessons from all five LifeSmarts topic areas – so be on the lookout for more lessons to come!

The Program. LifeSmarts has also developed two newsletters, available at LifeSmarts Coach’s Notes is a monthly newsletter for LifeSmarts coaches, which includes lesson plans and activities focusing on one LifeSmarts topic area per month. The LifeSmarts Sponsor Update is a bi-monthly newsletter for LifeSmarts sponsors, supporters and general enthusiasts, including monthly program updates and national and state program sponsor features.

We are also now on Facebook and Twitter, and welcome all LifeSmarts participants and enthusiasts to become a part of our online community!

National Competition. New components are planned for the 2010 LifeSmarts National Competition, to be held in Miami Beach, Florida, from April 24-27, at the Miami Beach Resort. New competition formats will allow students to compete more often and in fun, exciting new ways. A few hints about these improvements include: cumulative scores, the ability to challenge answers, and new ways to earn points! We will be keeping you posted throughout the program year as these upgrades are finalized, so make sure to check and our newsletters for more information. We appreciate everyone who has been involved with LifeSmarts – thanks for making it a part of your school, work, and extracurricular activities. We are looking forward to an exciting new year, and we hope you will join us!

Consumer Groups, Feds, Industry Convene to Discuss National Food Policy – National Consumers League

By Courtney Brein, Linda Golodner Food Safety and Nutrition Fellow

The National Consumers League was pleased to join fellow consumer advocates along with government and food industry representatives at last week’s 32nd annual National Food Policy Conference.  The conference, sponsored by the Consumer Federation of America and the Grocery Manufacturers Association, focused on two key issues of national concern: food safety and child nutrition.  On food safety, the conference proved particularly timely.

Lately, unease about the safety of the food supply in the United States has grown, fueled by outbreaks of food-borne illness linked to contaminated peanut butter and cookie dough.  A Pew-commissioned bipartisan poll of Iowa voters released during the conference found that approximately half of those polled stated that events of the past year have decreased their confidence in the safety of food sold in this country.  A Pew-commissioned nationwide poll released at the same time found that concern about the safety of imported foods has increased since 2008; 64 percent of Americans surveyed believe imported foods to be “often or sometimes unsafe,” whereas only 53 percent of likely voters expressed these concerns in 2008.  The poll also found that 89 percent of participants want stronger food safety measures and 91 percent want more frequent inspections of high-risk food processing facilities.

Modernized food safety laws are long overdue.  Many food safety regulations have not been updated since 1906, when President Theodore Roosevelt signed into law the Pure Food and Drug Act and the Meat Inspection Act, legislation that the National Consumers League played a key role in passing.  In July, the House passed the Food Safety Enhancement Act, H.R. 2749, which would increase the regulatory powers of the FDA, require imported food to meet the same safety standards as food produced in the United States, establish a national food tracing system, and require all food processing facilities to implement food safety plans.  Food safety advocates hope that the Senate version of the bill, which does not include all provisions in the House bill, will come up for consideration this session.

During her keynote speech, FDA Commissioner Margaret Hamburg detailed the FDA’s plans to strengthen its own programs and policies, measures which include appointing a Deputy Commissioner for Foods.  Hamburg also noted a fundamental change in perspective at the FDA: “We are pressing forward with a new agenda: to shift the agency’s emphasis away from mitigating public health harm by removing unsafe products from the market place, to…prevent[ing] harm by keeping unsafe food from entering commerce in the first place.”  The Commissioner announced the Reportable Food Registry, a new initiative requiring food industry officials to electronically report cases of probable food contamination within 24 hours of discovery.

HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius echoed Commissioner Hamburg’s commitment to cross-agency collaboration and noted that new preventive measures will not only save lives but will generate significant cost savings as well.  Secretary Sebelius used her speech before an audience of many consumer advocates to announce the launch of , a joint initiative of the USDA and HHS that will provide consumers with a one-stop source for information about the latest recalls and outbreaks.

The National Consumers League applauds the collaborative approach embraced by the Obama administration and strongly supports much needed food safety reform.

C.A.R.E. Act Introduced to Protect Young Farmworkers – National Consumers League

Today, Rep. Lucille Roybal-Allard (D-CA) has introduced H.R. 3564, the Children’s Act for Responsible Employment (CARE), legislation that would close loopholes that permit the children of migrant and seasonal farmworkers to work for wages when they are only 12- and 13-years-old.

NCL’s Sally Greenberg says: “Child farmworkers are exposed to many dangers—farm machinery, heat stroke, and pesticides among them—and perform back-breaking labor that is not fit for children. It’s time to level the playing field by closing these archaic loopholes and offering these children the same protections that all other American kids enjoy. We applaud Rep. Roybal-Allard’s leadership in introducing CARE.”

Read what the Child Labor Coalition and Human Rights Watch have to say about the new bill.