Effort to pass legislation to protect farmworker children gathers steam – National Consumers League

by Reid Maki, Child Labor Coalition

This post originally ran in Media Voices for Children, an Internet news agency for children’s rights.

In November, I reminded folks that young children—children who are 12- and 13-years-old and even younger in some cases—harvest fruits and vegetables on many U.S. farms and that many of them are allowed to do so because of loopholes in U.S. child labor law that go back to the 1930s. Child advocates have been trying to close those loopholes for years, and today, I’m happy to report that the campaign is progressing well.

Last week, Rep. William Lacy Clay (D-MO) became the 68th member of Congress to cosponsor the Children’s Act for Responsible Employment (CARE), HR 3564, which would close the legal loopholes and apply the same child labor laws to all working children. The bill, introduced by Rep. Lucille Roybal-Allard (D-CA) in September, would preserve an exemption for family farmers so their children could help on the farm, but the children of migrant and seasonal farmworkers who work for wages would have to wait till they are at least 14 to work. The U.S. Department of Labor would evaluate the safety of agricultural jobs to determine if some can be performed by 14- and 15-year-olds. The CARE Act would also prohibit teens in agriculture from doing jobs recognized as very dangerous until they were 18—the age limit in all other industries.

Campaign organizers, including the 24 members of the Child Labor Coalition, the American Federation of Teachers, the Association of Farmworker Opportunity Programs, Human Rights Watch, and First Focus Campaign for Children, are pleased that members of Congress from states with large farmworker communities have embraced the bill. Twenty members of the California delegation have cosponsored CARE. Texas, another state that is home to many migrant farmworkers, boasts seven members who have co-sponsored the bill. The Progressive Caucus has been incredibly supportive with 43 members co-sponsoring the legislation.

Efforts to gain support among advocacy groups are also gaining strength. To date, more than 50 groups have endorsed the CARE legislation, including all the national farmworker groups—Farmworker Justice, the United Farm Workers of America, the Farm Labor Organizing Committee, the National Farmworker Ministry, Student Action with Farmworkers, the Migrant Clinician’s Network, Migrant Legal Action Program, the Migrant and Seasonal Head Start Association and the National Association of State Directors of Migrant Education have all endorsed the bill. It’s great to have such unanimity within the community.

In addition to the farmworker unions, several of America’s largest national unions have also endorsed CARE: the AFL-CIO, Change to Win, the Communications Workers of America, the Teamsters, the National Education Association, the United Food and Commercial Workers International Union, and the Laborer’s International Union of North America have said that CARE is needed to protect child farmworkers and help farmworker families escape the generational poverty that traps them.

Hispanic advocacy groups have also spoken as one. The National Council of La Raza, the League of United Latin American Citizens, the Hispanic Federation, the United States Hispanic Leadership Institute, and MANA, a National Latina Organization have all given CARE an emphatic thumbs up.

Other advocacy groups that have endorsed the legislation include the American Association of University Women, Interfaith Worker Justice, the International Labor Rights Forum, the NAACP, the National Collaboration for Youth, the United States Student Association, and the National Organization for Women. We are so pleased that these groups have come together to support farmworker children. In the past, the plight of these kids has not gotten much national attention, but we were really pleased with the ABC News coverage

of these working children in November. The report, which appeared on Nightline, Good Morning America and the ABC World News, found several children under 12 in Michigan picking blueberries, including a 5-year-old. The children sometimes work till 9:00 p.m. One 11-year-old told reporters he was in his third year in the fields. Another small child talked about the danger when pesticides are sprayed nearby.

Josie Ellis, a nurse with Migrant Health, told Nightline that the fields in North Carolina, where she is based, are full of working children.

She noted that the kids acquire severe rashes, respiratory illnesses, and neurological impairments from their contact with pesticides. They also miss out on their childhoods because they are working long hours. “Play is something that migrant children know very little about. Work they know,” said Ellis. “We see frustration. We see really tired kids. We see depression in children….despair…the inability to dream…the inability to see past high school…the inability to see past junior high school….I think it’s shameful that our nation tolerates child labor,” added Ellis. We are told that NBC News is working on a piece that should appear sometime this spring.

The Children in the Fields Campaign organizers were also pleased that La Opinión, the nation’s largest circulation Spanish-language newspaper endorsed the CARE Act on September 26th: “The Children’s Act for Responsible Employment (CARE) begins to correct legislation that harms primarily poor, Latino, and immigrant children and young people. There is no justification for permitting minors to work in the fields when it is unlawful for them to work in other types of employment under better conditions. Children of agricultural workers deserve the protection granted to all youth.”

One of the great things about being involved in a campaign like this is the amazing people you meet. In a prior blog, I spoke about Norma Flores, a young woman who spoke eloquently about her experiences in the fields and the many friends she worked with who became exhausted and overwhelmed by their work and dropped out of school. Now in her twenties and working on the Children in the Fields Campaign, Norma recalled her years as a child farmworker. “I hated it,” said Norma. “I hated to work in the fields. I hated getting sweaty and dirty. I hated getting blisters and cuts and sunburns. I hated finishing my row of work only to see there was no water to drink at the end. I hated to have to walk half a mile to go to a dirty portable toilet. I hated how the work affected me outside of the fields. I hated having to enroll in school late every year, to have to make up months of assignments and have to fight to get my school credits.”

Recently, I received moving testimony about working in the fields as a child from Julia Perez, who lives in Arizona and has also become a part of our movement to end this injustice:

My earliest memories start at the age of 5, when I was pulled out of school to start working in the strawberries in Oregon. We then headed to another labor camp in Idaho where I was handed a knife to start topping onions. I cut myself a lot, once really bad on my knee because as it turned out I needed glasses. My days consisted of early, wet, mornings starting at 4am and long 10-12 hrs days of work. This went on for 6 months a year in 10 different states. This was the end of my childhood. I was five, but my back and knees ached like an old person, I had scars from all the cuts, I hated the camps with bathrooms outside. We were so tired at the end of the day, we only showered once a week and mostly I didn’t want to miss school.

Julia noted that only one of her 20 nieces and nephews have gone to college. Child labor robs children of their futures. Can we continue to ask these children to make such huge sacrifices? Please call your Congress member and urge the passage of the Children’s Act for Responsible Employment—the CARE Act—today.

Flu facts for expectant moms – National Consumers League

Recent reports show that up to 30 percent of pregnant women who are infected with the H1N1 flu virus require hospitalization. And of the H1N1-related deaths reported in the United States, 6 percent of them – a disproportionately high percentage – are pregnant women. According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control, “Getting a flu shot is the single best way to protect against the flu.” Yet many pregnant women are either hesitant to get a flu shot or have been unable to get vaccinated due to limited supplies.

The National Consumers League wants to make sure that expectant moms have the best information available, so they can make good decisions about protecting their health—and the health of their babies—and know where to go to get the care they need. The following is a fact-filled discussion featuring NCL executive director Sally Greenberg and, providing the answers, Dr. Annelise Swigert, a board certified Ob/Gyn and fellow of the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists.

Sally: What is H1N1 flu, also known as swine flu? And what is a flu vaccine?

Dr. Swigert: Every year, the public is faced with a seasonal flu which usually arrives in late fall. This year, the U.S. and many other parts of the world must deal with an additional flu called H1N1 or swine flu. H1N1 is a relatively new virus that was first detected in April 2009. It is contagious, spreading from person-to-person worldwide. Illness with H1N1 has ranged from mild to severe, including hospitalizations, and some deaths. Flu vaccines, given as a shot or inhaled through the nose, protect against contracting the disease.

Sally: Why is it important for women to be vaccinated for the H1N1 “swine flu”?

Dr. Swigert: H1N1 can cause serious complications during pregnancy. Pregnant women who are infected by H1N1 are more likely to end up in the hospital. A recent report showed up to 30 percent of pregnant women with H1N1 required hospitalization. Even if they are otherwise healthy, pregnant women who get the H1N1 virus can develop severe pneumonia and respiratory failure, deliver their babies early, or possibly miscarry. Of all the deaths related to H1N1, six percent have been in pregnant women, an unusually high percentage.

Getting the H1N1 vaccine while pregnant will continue to protect the baby after he or she is born. Studies on previous influenza vaccine use in pregnancy have shown more than a 60 percent decrease in serious illness in infants born to mothers who received the vaccine when they were pregnant.

Sally: Is the vaccine for the H1N1 flu safe for pregnant women and their babies?

Dr. Swigert: Yes, the H1N1 flu vaccine is safe for

pregnant women and their babies, and has been approved by the Food and Drug Administration. The H1N1 vaccine is the same as the seasonal flu vaccine with a slightly different strain of influenza. If H1N1 had been identified a few months sooner, it would have been the seasonal flu vaccine for 2009-2010. The seasonal flu vaccine has been safely given to pregnant women for more than 40 years. The vaccine can be given during any trimester of pregnancy and also postpartum, while breastfeeding.

As with all medication use in pregnancy, your doctor will review risk versus benefit. For most women, the benefit of getting the vaccine and preventing active infection from H1N1 far outweighs the extremely small risk of serious side effects.

Sally: Where can a pregnant woman get the vaccine?

Dr. Swigert: Pregnant women should start by contacting their Ob/Gyn or other primary health care provider if they don’t have access to an Ob/Gyn. The vaccine is available at many Ob/Gyn clinics, and those that don’t have it may be able to help their patients find it elsewhere. Community centers are now holding flu shot clinics for high-risk populations, such as pregnant women or those with certain chronic conditions, like asthma. Some employers will have the vaccine, especially those in health care fields. Always let the doctor or clinic know you are pregnant, as you’re in a high-risk group and should receive priority.

Sally: Is there any way the H1N1 vaccine could have been made more quickly?

Dr. Swigert: This year was particularly challenging because vaccine manufacturers needed to produce many millions of doses of both the seasonal flu vaccine and the H1N1 vaccine – simultaneously. As a result, production of the H1N1 vaccine is being completed in about half the time it usually takes. For the most part, pregnant women and other high-risk groups have been able to get vaccinated, and health officials believe enough vaccine will be available by the end of the year to safely vaccinate all those who wish to receive it.

In Europe, government regulators have approved the use of what are called “adjuvants,” additives that can be added to the vaccine supply to greatly increase its yield

or number of doses available. U.S. officials have not yet approved adjuvants, although many in the medical community believe they are a safe and effective way to expand the vaccine supply.

Sally: How is the vaccine delivered?

Dr. Swigert: The vaccine is available in two ways: an injection and an inhaled version. The injection contains a part of the virus that causes the immune system to make antibodies to protect the body from actual infection. The inhaled vaccine has the live virus that also causes the immune system to make antibodies. Both vaccines are safe and effective.

Pregnant women should receive the shot, and not the inhaled vaccine. Women who are postpartum or breastfeeding can receive either the shot or the inhaled vaccine. Only one injection is necessary to fully protect pregnant women from infection with H1N1.

Sally: Are there side effects?

Dr. Swigert: Some women have mild side effects such as soreness at the injection site or mild headache or body aches 2-3 days after the shot. These are not signs of infection or an allergic reaction, but signs that the immune system is responding as it should to the vaccine.

Women who have an allergy to eggs could have an allergic reaction to the shot and should not receive the vaccine. Serious reac­tions to the vaccine are very rare and occur in only one in every million women.

Sally: Have any unborn babies been harmed by the vaccine?

Dr. Swigert: The only danger to unborn babies is if their mothers get sick with the H1N1 virus. The vaccine is not dangerous, but getting the H1N1 virus is. Studies of pregnant women and their children who received the seasonal flu shot have shown no bad outcomes.

Sally: Will pregnant women who don’t get the vaccine risk getting sick?

Dr. Swigert: Pregnant women who do not get vaccinated risk becoming acutely ill with the H1N1 virus. Many of these women will have mild to moderate illness, but they risk possible complications such as pneumonia and respi­ratory failure. These complications cannot be predicted or prevented, even once the illness is diagnosed. Risks to unborn babies can include premature delivery and respiratory distress.

Sally: Does the H1N1 flu vaccine contain any additives that could interfere with a child’s development?

Dr. Swigert: Thimerosal, a preservative, is used in flu vaccines, including the H1N1 vaccine. Although thimerosal has never been scientifically proven to be harmful to children or pregnant women, due to public perception, vaccine manufacturers have produced preservative-free, single-dose syringes for use in pregnant women. These vaccines are more costly and time con­suming to produce than vaccines with thimerosal, and may not be available in all communities. Your clinic will be able to give you information on the vaccines they have available.

Also remember that because thimerosal has never been scientifically proven to be harmful to pregnant women or the fetus, injections using this preservative should be safe for use in pregnant women.

Sally: My friend gave birth a month ago. Should she get the vaccine now?

Dr. Swigert: Yes. Infants under 6 months of age are at extremely high-risk for complications from H1N1. By getting vaccinated not only will you decrease the risk of getting sick and giving it to your baby, but if you are breastfeeding, the baby will get protection from the illness through antibodies in the breast milk.

Sally: Is the vaccine safe for women who are breastfeeding?

Dr. Swigert: Yes. It is safe to receive either the shot or the inhaled vaccine while breastfeeding.

Sally: What if your family already had the flu this fall? Should expectant mothers still need to get vaccinated?

Dr. Swigert: Yes. Even if members of your family or you have had an influenza-like illness, it is still impor­tant to get vaccinated to protect you and your baby.

Sally: How can we avoid getting the flu?

Dr. Swigert: The best way to prevent the flu is to be vaccinated. Like many viruses, it is transmitted from person to person most commonly through coughing or sneezing. Other important ways to reduce the risk include: washing your hands often and thoroughly with soap, using alcohol-based hand sanitizers, and not touching your nose, eyes, and mouth.

Sally: What are the symptoms of the H1N1 flu?

Dr. Swigert: The two main symptoms of H1N1 are a fever of 100 degrees or higher, and cough and/or sore throat. Other symptoms may include headache, body aches, chills, runny nose, fatigue, diarrhea, and vomiting. Pregnant women should contact their doctor or clinic immediately if they experience any of these symptoms, as they will need to start anti-viral medication.

Sally: What should a pregnant woman do if she thinks she has H1N1? Should she take an anti-viral medication?

Dr. Swigert: H1N1 can be dangerous for a pregnant woman and her baby. Contact your doctor or clinic immediately if you have any symptoms. Treat any initial fever with acetaminophen (Tylenol), which is safe in pregnancy. Anti-viral prescription medications, such as Tamiflu, are recommended for pregnant women and safe to use.

Medication should be started within 48 hours of the onset of symptoms. Confirmation that the illness is the H1N1 virus is not necessary to begin treatment. A pregnant woman should follow her physician’s instruc­tions and should not delay seeking treatment under any circumstances.

Emergency care is necessary if a pregnant woman experiences difficulty breathing, chest pain or pressure, vomiting, dehydration, dizziness, confusion or loss of alertness. It is also important to contact your doctor if your symptoms have improved and then get worse again.

Sally: If a pregnant woman’s child or family member becomes sick with H1N1, should she avoid contact with the sick family member?

Dr. Swigert: If a family member becomes sick, a pregnant woman should contact her doctor immediately to be treated with anti-viral medication. In addition, families should have a plan to care for each other that protects pregnant mothers from the risk of infection. If others aren’t available to help care for a sick child, pregnant mothers should try to limit exposure by washing their hands often, throwing away dirty tissues, and avoiding touching their nose, mouth, or eyes as much as possible. Pregnant mothers may also wear surgical-quality face­masks if they must care for sick family members.

Sally: If a pregnant woman gets the H1N1 flu vaccine, does she need to get the seasonal flu vaccine too?

Dr. Swigert: Yes. The H1N1 flu vaccine will not protect against the seasonal flu. The seasonal flu is also a threat to a pregnant woman’s health – and the health of her baby. The seasonal flu should be treated with the same caution, care, and preventative measures as H1N1 flu.

LifeSmarts state competitions wrapping up – National Consumers League

As we come into the home stretch of the online LifeSmarts competitions, LifeSmarts students are busy learning all they can using the practice quizzes, LifeSmarts U online lessons, and all the other resources to be found on the LifeSmarts Web site. Since competition opened in September students have already answered 1.5 million consumer questions online!

LifeSmarts is education for the real world, and it arms students with knowledge they begin implementing right away. Students say LifeSmarts has helped them:

  • know what to do when my ATM card gets stolen
  • budget and keep track of purchases with my debit card
  • know the proper temperature to store certain foods
  • know what to look for when I buy my next cell phone
  • learn about my rights as a worker (and I got a raise!)
  • provide reasons why my parents should seek a refund for a poor-quality product
  • remember to turn my low beams on when it is foggy
  • learn to read the fine print when using OTC drugs
  • explain consumer rights to a friend whose phone service got slammed
  • vigilantly guard my Social Security number
  • recycle more

It is gratifying to see this generation of young consumers demonstrate their desire to learn as much as they can about important issues that will give them a leg-up in life. Hats off to you!

Dental care key to health reform – National Consumers League

Providing preventative health care is one of the most important strategies for lowering our nation’s health costs. We hear a lot about the 46 million Americans without health insurance, but rarely do we hear that more than twice that lack dental insurance.

The case for dental coverage is the same as for health care. People without health care coverage often get sick with illnesses that could be treated at far less cost if caught early. When it comes to dental care, kids with minor tooth problems may end up with dental disease for the rest of their lives. This can hurt their ability to stay in school or get a job. Adults with missing teeth find it hard to get jobs as well.

But poor dental health can also kill you. The Washington Post ran a story about Deamonte Driver, a 12-year old who died of complications stemming from a toothache that could have been cured by an $80 tooth extraction. Deamonte’s family had lost its Medicaid coverage, and few dentists would even take Medicaid patients anyway. Bacteria from the tooth spread to Demonte’s brain, leading to hospitalization and two operations. The total cost of the hospital care was about $250,000, and the hospital was still unable to keep him alive.

The National Consumers League, with our long history of work on health care, has joined with several other groups including the American Dental Education Association, the Dental Health Foundation, and Oral Health America, in a campaign to underscore the importance of including dental care in health care reform. The groups have sent an open letter to Congress asking for recognition of these facts:

  • Dental conditions become more serious and are more costly to treat without intervention.
  • Untreated dental disease can have fatal and costly consequences.
  • Access to dental insurance is extremely difficult for the nation’s poorest. Half of all states’ Medicaid plans provide no or extremely limited dental coverage.
  • 130 million Americans, including 16 million children and 80 percent of seniors, lack dental insurance coverage. This is more than twice the total number lacking basic health insurance.
  • Poor oral health can complicate diabetes; heart disease; pneumonia; and further study is needed to determine the documented link between gum disease and preterm low birth weight babies.

Having dental insurance can be the difference between simple tooth decay and losing your teeth, or the difference between a toothache and a serious operation. Dental care is preventive care; it saves our hospitals and taxpayers the high cost of treating life-threatening complications and helps poor and middle class people get and keep jobs.


Door-to-door sales: Questions for jobseekers – National Consumers League

Considering a job in door-to-door sales? Teens looking for potential work may need help distinguishing legitimate door-to-door sales opportunities from dangerous traveling sales crews.

Teens interviewing for a new sales job should ask the following questions to determine whether the opportunity is legitimate or dangerous:

  • Will I be an employee or an independent contractor?
  • What will be withheld, if anything, from my pay (e.g., taxes, social security, living or travel expenses)?
  • What is the work?  What is expected of me?
  • What are the working conditions?  Ask about hours, travel, and living arrangements.
  • Do I get any time off?  How much and when?
  • Will I have to travel away from home?  Where will I be going?  How can family and friends reach me?
  • Where will I sleep each night?  Who will arrange sleeping accommodations – me or the company?  Who will pay for these accommodations?
  • How will my living expenses while traveling be handled;
  • How will I generate income, how it will be calculated, and how often will I receive my pay?  In what manner will I be paid (i.e., by cash, corporate check)?  Will I receive a statement with my pay that shows income earned and deductions?  How will commissions, bonuses, and regular pay be calculated?
  • Is there a training period?  If so, how long does it last?  Will I be paid while I’m in training?
  • Will I be paid for sales meetings and how often are they held and for how many hours?
  • Will an experienced sales agent or trainer come with me for my first few sales calls?
  • Can I be fined for not showing up at sales meetings or making friends with other salespeople?
  • Will I be working in an area that requires door-to-door salespeople to obtain licenses or post bonds?  If so, do I have to file the application and pay the fee or will the company do this for me?
  • Who does the driving?  Must drivers meet any requirements?
  • What is the time period of the contract?
  • If things don’t work out and I decide to quit before the contract period ends, is there any penalty for me, and who will pay for my transportation back home?

Why are the answers to these questions so important?  The answers can help you spot bad practices, which often go hand-in-hand with traveling sales crew scams.  Most traveling sales crews report to a crew chief, who decides where and when they will work and maintains accounts for the entire crew.

Former salespersons on traveling sales crews have reported that they never received or saw a statement of their individual accounts and therefore never knew how much money, if any, they were making.  They were given a daily or weekly “allowance” by the crew chief, who based the payments on their accounts.  This allowance had to cover food, clothing, and personal expenses, but they had no way of knowing if the accounts were accurate or how much they could expect to receive at the end of each day or each week.

Don’t allow yourself to be rushed or pressured into signing up. Remember, they need you more than you need them.  Watch out for claims that they only have room for one more person and you have to say “yes” immediately or lose out.  If you are unsure of the offer, take the time to discuss the pros and cons with relatives and friends and call your local Better Business Bureau, state attorney general’s office, state department of labor, or the Direct Selling Association to see if they have received any complaints about the company.

Denied health claim? Appeal it! – National Consumers League

Have you run into problems with your health plan? You’re not alone! Half of all consumers experience problems with them, but fewer than 1 in every 10,000 tries to fight, or appeal, when a claim has been denied. But appealing a denied claim works—maybe more often than you’d think!

Forty percent of people who file appeals with their health plan are successful. Ten percent of claims denied by a health plan turn out to be a simple mistake, and those are usually resolved quickly. When you find out that a medical service you’ve received (like a visit to the emergency room, a visit to an out-of-plan provider, or a test your doctor asked you to take) has been denied by your health plan, it is important to know your rights. The first denial by your health plan is not the final word, and there are processes in place to appeal these decisions.

NCL’s new brochure can help you be your own best advocate! By doing a little legwork, and following some basic procedures, you may be able to successfully appeal the decision and get the coverage you need for your claim. Download our brochure to learn a few basic steps to guide you in the process.

TicketDisaster.org coalition members react to DOJ settlement in Ticketmaster-Live Nation merger – National Consumers League

January 25, 2010

Contact: John Breyault, NCL (202) 207-2819, johnb@nclnet.org or
Shannon Flaherty, National Association of Ticket Brokers, (202) 347-6762, sflaherty@theheraldgroup.com

Washington, DC — The TicketDisaster.org coalition today released the following statement in response to the Department of Justice’s (DOJ) decision to allow the Ticketmaster-Live Nation merger to proceed:

”The DOJ has asked consumers, independent promoters, ticket brokers, artists, and venue owners to take a very large leap of faith – that the conditions imposed on the merger will improve competition and ultimately lead to greater choice and lower prices,” said Sally Greenberg, executive director of the National Consumers League, a founding member of the TicketDisaster.org coalition. “While we appreciate the efforts of the DOJ to extract meaningful concessions from the parties, we remain concerned that these two companies, with a history of anti-consumer behavior, will abide only by the letter, and not the spirit of the settlement agreement. It is therefore critically important that the DOJ hold the merged company’s feet to the fire to ensure that the settlement will have its intended effect. The consumer groups, venue owners, promoters, and ticket broker members of our coalition will remain vigilant to ensure that DOJ fulfills this watchdog function.”

The settlement leaves several important issues unresolved, we believe. Notably, the secondary ticketing issue remains unsettled. Ticketmaster has signaled that it intends to use questionable “innovations” such as paperless ticketing to extend its monopoly power over the secondary market. We believe that this may constitute an unfair and deceptive trade practice. We therefore urge the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) to maintain a watchful eye and ensure that consumers continue to benefit from a robust secondary market.

“While today’s decision is not the strongest in terms of protecting consumers, competition, and choice in the industry, it is all the more reason why consumers should continue to stand up and voice their concerns with this live entertainment monopoly,” said Gary Adler, counsel to the National Association of Ticket Brokers. “The fight is not over. Our efforts to protect the rights of the consumer by exposing Ticketmaster’s anti-consumer activities, including the use of paperless ticketing and excessive fees, are still priority number one.”

“Though I have not had the opportunity to review it yet fully, it seems the Department of Justice has dictated in the merger agreement that Live Nation and Ticketmaster may not engage in anticompetitive behavior on any level going forward. If that is true, it will be a better world for everyone. It all comes down to whether the DOJ will indeed be the watchdog they claim they will be. The department seems to understand the issues, our concerns, and the fears the entertainment industry holds about Live Nation’s and Ticketmaster’s predatory and anticompetitive behavior. This puts Live Nation Entertainment under a microscope, a place we wished Ticketmaster and Live Nation were under a long time ago,” said Seth Hurwitz, chairman of I.M.P., which owns the 9:30 Club, operates Merriweather Post Pavilion, and is the producer of Virgin Mobile Festival in the U.S., representing independent concert promoters and venue owners.

“The dominant market power of the newly-merged Live Nation Entertainment will require both the DOJ and FTC to commit to a vigorous oversight capacity, including additional enforcement actions where necessary,” said David Balto, former FTC policy director and counsel to the consumer and industry groups. “It will be incumbent upon enforcement authorities to listen to the voices of millions of consumers who attend live events to ensure that they, not the merged company, are the ultimately beneficiaries of this agreement.”

For more information, please visit www.TicketDisaster.org.


About TicketDisaster.org

TicketDisaster.org is a coalition of public interest groups, ticket brokers, and independent venue owners and promoters united in opposition to the proposed Ticketmaster-Live Nation merger. Coalition members include the American Antitrust Institute, Consumer Action, Consumer Federation of America, I.M.P. Productions Chairman Seth Hurwitz (representing independent venue owners), the National Association of Ticket Brokers, the National Consumers League and the U.S. Public Interest Research Group (USPIRG).

Eating 2010: The food issues that will matter most for American consumers – National Consumers League

Update: Late in the day on Monday, January 25, 2010, President Obama announced his intent to nominate Dr. Elisabeth Hagen for the position of the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Under Secretary for Food Safety.  Dr. Hagen currently serves as the USDA’s Chief Medical Officer.  For more information, see the official USDA News Release.

By Courtney Brein, Linda Golodner Food Safety and Nutrition Fellow

While issues such as the recession, the unemployment rate, and the health reform debate ruled the airwaves in 2009, a number of food-related issues nonetheless grabbed the attention of American consumers. From the mass peanut product recall to the news coverage of the White House garden to the rising hunger rates, food issues not only made the news but directly impacted millions of Americans last year. Here, in a four-part series, we present the food issues that we anticipate will affect American consumers the most – in addition to attracting media attention – in the coming year.

Food Safety

As the recent outbreaks of foodborne illness linked to contaminated spinach, peanut butter, and cookie dough underscore, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) does not currently possess the authority, funding, and capacity to adequately ensure the safety of food consumers purchase, whether it be imported items or those produced in the United States. Making food in the U.S. significantly safer than it is now will require FDA reform legislation, a goal towards which the National Consumers League has been working, along with fellow members of the Make Our Food Safe coalition.

In July, the House overwhelmingly passed H.R. 2749, its version of FDA food safety reform, which would increase the regulatory powers of the FDA, require food from other countries 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. The Senate bill, S. 510, contains many of the key provisions in the House bill, although it lacks the strength of that legislation in several areas, including inspection frequency and oversight of imported foods. Nonetheless, S. 510 would give FDA the authorities it needs to create a food safety system focused on preventing foodborne illness, rather than on simply responding to outbreaks as they occur. The Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor & Pensions (HELP) unanimously approved this bipartisan piece of legislation in November. Now, as soon as possible, the Senate needs to bring the bill to the floor for a vote, in order to make food-safety reform a reality. The Make Our Food Safe Coalition and victims of foodborne illness and their families will continue to call for Congress to enact food safety legislation until it does so.

Once food safety legislation passes, consumers should look to Michael Taylor, the newly named FDA deputy commissioner for foods, to implement the new laws designed to prevent outbreaks of foodborne illness. This new position – Taylor is the first to hold it – will help to increase the focus on food in the agency, which also regulates drugs and medical devices.

While the position of FDA deputy commissioner for foods is now filled, numerous other food-related administration positions continue to remain vacant. The top food safety post at USDA, that of Undersecretary for Food Safety, is the most significant of these empty spots, but four other USDA positions – general counsel; chief financial officer; undersecretary for research, education and economics; and administrator of the Foreign Agricultural Service – have not yet been filled. Several of the vacancies require presidential nomination and Senate confirmation; the USDA requires individuals in all of these positions in order to best ensure the safety of meat, poultry, and other USDA-regulated food products. Consumers should expect – and demand – that these vacancies be filled in early 2010. Contact the White House and ask President Obama to nominate individuals for the two undersecretary and general counsel positions.

NCL hails federal court support for keeping food suit in DC – National Consumers League

January 22, 2010

Contact: Carol McKay, (412) 408-3688, media@nclnet.org

Washington, DC – The National Consumers League (“NCL”) is hailing as “a win for consumers,” a remand decision handed down on January 15, 2010 by United States District Judge Henry H. Kennedy, Jr. Judge Kennedy granted the League’s motion to remand its case against General Mills, Inc. back to the District of Columbia Superior Court.

The NCL filed this case as a “private attorney general” on behalf of the “General Public of the District of Columbia” under DC’s Consumer Protection and Procedures Act (“CPPA”). The complaint alleges that General Mills made improper claims that Cheerios has a drug-like benefit in reducing cholesterol in people who consume it. Indeed, on May 5, 2009, in response to a September 17, 2008 letter from the NCL, the United States Food and Drug Administration informed General Mills that it found that General Mills had committed “serious violations of the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act” and that its Cheerios product was “misbranded” because “it bears unauthorized health claims in its label.”

The NCL commenced its case in DC Superior Court on August 20, 2009. In October, General Mills filed a “Notice of Removal”, thereby causing the transfer of the NCL’s case to federal court. General Mills argued that the case should be treated as a class action under the Class Action Fairness Act. In response, NCL filed an Emergency Motion to Remand. On January 15, Judge Kennedy ruled in NCL’s favor, stating that the federal court had neither subject matter jurisdiction nor Article III standing, as the NCL’s claim arises from “alleged harm to the general public rather than to the League itself.”

As Judge Kennedy noted, “Challenging conduct like General Mills’ alleged mislabeling is the very purpose of consumer advocacy organizations. As such, General Mills’ alleged conduct does not hamper NCL’s advocacy effort; if anything it gives NCL an opportunity to carry out its mission.” Judge Kennedy further found that the CPPA should be “construed and applied liberally to promote its purpose” to deter and remedy improper trade practices, and that, as such, “CPPA claims brought on behalf of the general public as here . . . need not comply with” class action rules.

“We are gratified that Judge Kennedy recognized the value groups like the National Consumers League bring in representing the interests of the public in fighting false and deceptive advertising,” said Sally Greenberg, NCL Executive Director.

The NCL’s case against General Mills is now able to move forward – as NCL had asked — in the District of Columbia’s Superior Court.

NCL is represented by Donald Enright and Karen Marcus of Finkelstein Thompson LLP, a Washington DC-based firm.


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.

Health Reform Uncertainties – National Consumers League

The election of Senator Kennedy’s successor has led to numerous discussions about the future of health reform, but advocates are encouraging Members of Congress—from both sides of the aisle—to keep their eyes on the prize.

“We need to put partisan concerns aside and work NOW to ensure that the system is reformed. The cost of doing nothing is unthinkable,” said NCL Executive Director Sally Greenberg.

Senator Kennedy, who lost his battle with cancer last summer, was a friend of consumers and workers; Senator Kennedy called upon the Obama Administration to reinstate the White House Office of Consumer Affairs and was a champion of workers, fighting tirelessly for minimum wage increases for working families and health care for all. In his honor and in the spirit and history of the League, NCL is committed to reforming a system to ensure that “everyone has access to affordable health care or the system will remain broken.”

For decades, NCL has been dedicated to achieving quality improvements to America’s health care system. In the 1930s, NCL’s Josephine Roche authored the first universal health care proposal and today, NCL is at the forefront of advocating for comprehensive health reform with legislation that is patient-centered and cost-efficient.

NCL encourages law makers on either side of the aisle to remember what this debate is about – improving the access to and quality of health care in America, for all Americans, addressing why we are overpaying for care that is not making us healthier.