Salmonella outbreak news – National Consumers League

And the outbreaks keep on coming! This current outbreak involves 20 states and the District of Columbia. So far 141 people have been sickened by the outbreak strain of Salmonella Bareilly and 21 of them have been hospitalized.

The outbreak has been linked to a yellow fin tuna product produced by Moon Marine. The product, known as Nakaochi Scrape, is tuna backmeat and is used in sushi products. Moon Marine has recalled its product. Right now, to be safe, consumers may want to avoid tuna sushi. CDC will continue to post updates as they are available and will continue to investigate the outbreak.

Top 10 red flags of home repair scams – National Consumers League

Have you made your first spring trip to your local hardware store yet? With the arrival of spring, many consumers are already busy with projects around the house. Unfortunately, warm weather ushers in both blooming flowers and scammers offering all manner of shoddy home repair “services” and outright scams.This spring, don’t be a victim of home repair scams. Arm yourself by being aware of the following red flags of potential home repair scams:

  1. Contractors who appear uninvited at your doorstep or who call or email you out of the blue.
  2. The contractor says they are doing work in your neighborhood and claims they have “extra material” left over
  3. You feel pressured to make a decision and sign a contract for the work immediately
  4. The contractor offers a “special deal” available “today only”
  5. The contractor points out a “problem” with your home that you never noticed yourself before. Some unscrupulous scam artists have been known to offer “free” inspections and then break something on purpose so they can be paid to “fix” the problem
  6. The contractor demands full payment up front, particularly if payment is demanded in cash.
  7. The contractor lacks identification, such as a permit from the city or locality
  8. Offers to give you a discount so that your home can be used as a “model” or if you find additional customers for him/her
  9. The contractor offers to help finance the project, either from his own funds or the funds of an associate, especially if your home equity or home deed is involved.
  10. The contractor insists you come and examine “damage” with him (while an associate steals valuables from your home)

Some of the more common types of home repair scam involve duct cleaning, driveway sealant, leaky foundations, landscaping, furnace and roofing repair. This is by no means an exhaustive list, however.

Consumers can take some precautions to avoid home repair scams, including:

  • Get multiple estimates on any home repair job before signing a contract
  • Check out the contractor’s references and visit the site to check out the quality of the work itself, if possible
  • Check for complaints with the Better Business Bureau and make sure the contractor is registered with your state board of contractors and your local building inspection office
  • Never pay in full up front, especially if cash is the only payment accepted
  • Make sure the contractor is insured and bonded
  • Document in writing the scope of the work to be done and the complete cost and time necessary to complete the job and how payment will be handled.

We’ve come a long way, baby. Sort of – National Consumers League

By Michell K. McIntyre, Director of NCL’s Special Project on Wage Theft

Today marks the day when the typical woman’s earnings catch up to those of her male counterpart’s from 2011. This year is also the 49th anniversary of the Equal Pay Act, signed into law by President John F. Kennedy in 1963 when women were averaging 56 cents for every dollar men made.

As the saying goes, ‘we’ve come a long way, baby,’ but we have a ways to go. Back in the 1960s, women had few career choices – nurse, teacher, or secretary. As illustrated in Mad Men, women who chose different career paths or tried to reach for more, such as Peggy Olson, were often ridiculed and made painfully aware of how little they were paid or respected in comparison to their male counterparts.

Today, American women are paid 77 cents for every dollar men are paid. This creates a $10,784 yearly wage gap and the numbers for minority women are worse. African-American women are paid only 62 cents and Hispanic women only 54 cents for every dollar paid to a white, non-Hispanic man. These wage gaps result in a loss of $19,575 for African-American women and $23,873 for Hispanic women every year. According to the Department of Labor, the wage gap between men and women translates to a loss of about $380,000 over a woman’s career.

The wage gap is not only a matter of injustice but is a matter of economic stability. According to the National Women’s Law Center, an additional $10,784 per year is enough to:

  • Pay the median cost of rent and utilities for a year with over $1,000 to spare or the median mortgage payment and utilities for over ten months
  • Feed a household of four for a year and five months with more than $300 to spare
  • Pay a year and a half of childcare cost for a four-year-old with over $100 to spare
  • Pay for two and a half years of family health insurance premiums in an employer-sponsored health insurance program with over $1,400 to spare


According to a Government Accountability Office study, the wage gap persists even when accounting for personal choices, such as work patterns and education. As reported by the National Partnership of Women and Families, working mothers pay a “penalty” for having children while fathers get a bonus. Nationally, women with children are paid 2.5 percent less than women without children, while men with children experience a boost of 2.1 percent over men without children. Education doesn’t seem to even the playing field. According to the National Partnership for Women and Families, women with professional degrees are paid just 67 cents for every dollar paid to men with professional degrees – women with doctoral degrees are paid less than men with master’s degrees and women with master’s degrees are paid less than men with bachelor’s degrees.

Not all hope is lost, in 2009 President Obama signed the Lily Ledbetter Fair Pay Act, the first piece of legislation passed in the new administration. The legislation expanded workers’ rights to sue in a discrimination kind of case, and relaxed the statute of limitations, and restarting the six-month clock every time the worker receives a paycheck. But we need more to protect women and families. The Paycheck Fairness Act was reintroduced in 2011 in the House of Representatives by Congresswoman Rosa DeLauro with 177 co-sponsors (H.R. 1519) and reintroduced in the Senate by Senator Barbara Mikulski with 34 co-sponsors (S.797).

The Paycheck Fairness Act would:

  • Prohibit employers from retaliating against workers who discuss salaries with colleagues
  • Put gender-based discrimination on equal footing with other forms of wage discrimination – such as race or national origin – and allow women to take legal action for damages
  • Require employers to prove that pay differences exist for legitimate job related reasons
  • Create a negotiations skills training program for women and girls
  • Provide businesses (especially small ones) assistance with equal pay practices
  • Enhance the Department of Labor’s and the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission’s ability to investigate and enforce pay discrimination laws

Unfortunately, both bills are sitting in committees and haven’t seen much play over the last few months especially with the campaign season ramping up. Its’ time to urge our lawmakers to due right by America’s women and families and pass the Paycheck Fairness Act.

For more information please visit the National Women’s Law Center, the National Partnership for Women & Families, the Department of Labor and the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.

Leading national consumer groups urge FDA to promptly deny industry petition to call high fructose corn syrup ‘corn sugar’ – National Consumers League

April 17, 2012

Contact: NCL Communications, (202) 835-3323,

Washington, DC – In a letter sent to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) today, the National Consumers League, Consumers Union, the Consumer Federation of America, and Shape Up America!, called on the agency to “promptly deny” the Corn Refiners Association’s (CRA) petition to change the name of High Fructose Corn Syrup (HFCS).

The groups told the FDA that nearly 5,000 comments submitted to the agency oppose the name change on a ratio of 100:1. The consumer organizations’ letter also states that FDA’s failure to promptly deny the CRA petition allows the trade association to continue to run deceptive marketing campaigns calling HFCS “corn sugar,” and confuses consumers who wish to avoid the ingredient.

“The FDA has a statutory responsibility to ensure that consumers have the opportunity to exercise free choice in the marketplace without being misled by confusing name changes designed to hide the identity of a controversial ingredient,” stated Sally Greenberg, Executive Director of the National Consumers League.

The FDA warned the CRA last year not to encourage its members to use the term “corn sugar” to refer to HFCS while the Association’s petition is pending, but did not formally deny the petition.

“The FDA’s warning letter to the CRA is a step in the right direction, but the term ‘corn sugar’ continues to appear in national advertising within the jurisdiction of the Federal Trade Commission (FTC). The FDA should ensure that it and the FTC can stop such deceptive advertising by formally denying the CRA petition,” stated Urvashi Rangan, Director of Consumer Safety and Sustainability at Consumers Union.

“Given the thousands of comments opposing the CRA petition and the continued misleading use of the term ‘corn sugar’ in marketing, FDA should act decisively and deny the CRA petition,” stated Chris Waldrop, Director of the Food Policy Institute at Consumer Federation of America.

“Honest food labeling and advertising is essential for Americans to improve their diets and reduce their risk of diet-related disease.  FDA and FTC should devote the necessary resources to ensure that consumers are provided with clear information” added Barbara Moore, President and CEO of Shape Up America!

To read the full letter, please click here.


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

Understanding Rosen – National Consumers League

By Sally Greenberg, NCL Executive Director

This past week in Washington a big kerfuffle broke out over comments of political commentator Hilary Rosen. Rosen said on TV that “Ann Romney never worked a day in her life,” when talking about how Mitt Romney -Republican Presidential nominee -was using his wife Ann as a campaign surrogate to try to appeal to women voters. Ann Romney was always a stay-at-home mom who had five sons after marrying Mitt at age 19.

After Rosen’s comment; the right wing blogosphere went wild, claiming that Rosen didn’t respect as “work” the job of being a mother of five children. President Obama rushed to distance himself from Rosen’s comments, assuring voters that he thought taking care of kids was real work, while Obama aide, David Axelrod, said “I thought we had an obligation to speak and speak very, very quickly to make clear that this didn’t reflect our point of view and that we thought Hilary should apologize. She did do that.”

Yes, she did apologize, but I think her comment was unfairly taken out of context and the rush to stem any damage obscured the larger and very important point she was making. Sure, Rosen might have edited her comment by saying “Ann Romney never worked a day – outside the home – in her life,” but it’s clear that Rosen was talking about how working women – those who go to a job outside the home every day – have to juggle a lot of responsibilities – if they have children, they have to find care for them while they work, most women, married or not, still do the majority of house work – shopping for food and clothing, cleaning the house, doing laundry. Finding affordable child care alone is a huge challenge for many women who earn modest wages. Then there is the ongoing battle for equal pay that women face in the workplace each day.

Labor and consumer activist Esther Peterson, when she worked at the Women’s Bureau at the Department of Labor, called it “The Double Day:” Women worked at a job and then went home and worked to shop, cook, and put dinner on the table.

Yes, Ann Romney raised five children, but her husband made a lot of money and she surely had household help with those five boys –someone to do laundry, clean the house, care for the boys, cook meals, etc.

Florence Kelley, who lead the NCL for our first 33 years, wrote about the plight of working woman who were burdened with raising children and keeping house while holding down a job. Indeed, she had three children of her own whom she adored but was forced to house them with friends in suburban Chicago so she could live at Hull House and do her reform work. She had little money of her own, and her NCL wages were meager; benefactors helped pay the tuition for her children’s education.

I think Florence Kelley would have understood all too well what Hilary Rosen was trying to say: while raising children surely is work, it’s not the same as going to a job outside the home each day and Ann Romney – given her affluence – is hardly the average working American woman who balances the job with raising children and keeping house.

NCL disappointed in FDA’s voluntary approach to antibiotic reduction – National Consumers League

April 12, 2012 

Contact: NCL Communications, (202) 835-3323,

Washington, DC–Today the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) released several documents relating to the judicious use of antimicrobials in food producing animals. These documents confirm the agency’s commitment to pursuing voluntary limits on the use of antibiotics rather than mandatory regulation-based restrictions. The agency has stated that withdrawing the approval of each type of antibiotics would be prohibitively expensive and time consuming.

“While we recognize the budgetary constraints facing the agency, we are concerned that a voluntary approach to reducing antibiotics in livestock will not be an effective mechanism for protecting public health,” said Sally Greenberg, Executive Director of NCL.

Draft guidance proposes a three year timeline during which drug companies would change the way they market and label these antibiotics. The result would be a new system where veterinarians are more involved in prescribing antibiotics, many of which are currently available over the counter.

“We support the agency’s goal of reducing non-therapeutic uses of antibiotics,” said Teresa Green, Linda Golodner Food Safety and Nutrition Fellow. “We are just not convinced that a voluntary system, in which companies have the option not to engage in reform, is going to achieve this goal.”

The main reason FDA is pursuing this goal is that the overuse of antibiotics amongst livestock has been shown to contribute to the rise of antibiotic resistance. Antibiotic resistance means that doctors are forced to use different drugs to treat illnesses, drugs that may be less effective or have more pronounced side effects.

“Given how important it is to preserve these antibiotics for use in humans, we are disappointed that FDA has not taken a more aggressive stance,” Greenberg said. “Reducing antibiotic resistance and maintaining the efficacy of these important drugs should be FDA’s ultimate goal. We believe this goal would be better achieved through mandatory measures.”


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

Survey finds consumers willing to wait for new tech gadgets if produced under humane working conditions – National Consumers League

April 11, 2012

Contact: NCL Communications, (202) 835-3323,

Washington, DC—With severe working conditions in the factories of mega-corporations like Apple making recent headlines, a new survey reveals that consumers say they are willing to wait for delays in the release of new technology devices if the trade-off is humane working conditions for employees. According to a new survey of 1,019 adult Americans commissioned by the National Consumers League and conducted by ORC International from March 22-25,  consumers feel strongly that they do not want their products to be manufactured in unfair, overly harsh or dangerous working conditions, and they’re willing to make some sacrifices for that.

Nearly three-quarters (73 percent) of respondents agreed that they would be “willing to wait longer to get the latest electronic gadget if [they] knew it was produced under humane working conditions.” Only 1 in 10 said they would be unwilling to wait. Thirteen percent were undecided.

“With Apple and its Chinese manufacturer, Foxconn, in the news for overly harsh and dangerous working conditions in China, it’s very encouraging to see that consumers not only care a great deal about the working conditions of the people who manufacture their electronic devices, but they also find it important that workers in shops and restaurants here in America are also treated and paid fairly,” said NCL Executive Director Sally Greenberg.

NCL, the nation’s oldest consumer advocacy organization, was founded in 1899 by Progressive-Era advocates who believed that consumers’ buying decisions should reflect the working conditions they accept for their fellow citizens. Early leaders exposed child labor and other scandalous working conditions and worked to establish a minimum wage. Today, NCL’s ties with labor issues and organized labor remains strong, and NCL advocates for consumers and workers on a variety of issues. NCL commissioned the ORC survey to examine contemporary American concerns about labor issues, in light of a challenging economy for both consumers and workers.

Other survey highlights

Working conditions are important for an overwhelming number of consumers.

Nearly three-fifths (59 percent) of respondents said it is very important to them personally that the products they buy are not made under unfair, overly harsh, and dangerous working conditions.  Nineteen out of 20 Americans – 94 percent – surveyed said that the way workers are treated is “very important,” “important,” or “somewhat important.” Only one in 20 said it was either not important or not a consideration.

Education needed: Many Americans are still unfamiliar with the concept of wage theft.

NCL’s survey revealed that 3 in 10 respondents did not report having ever heard of “wage theft,” and few are aware of direct experience with it, either personally (10 percent) or through someone they know (20 percent). This demonstrates a disconnect from reality; according to the National Employment Law Project, more than two-thirds (68 percent) of low-wage workers in a 2008 survey actually experience at least one pay-related violation (wage theft) in the previous work week.

Consumers overwhelmingly side with workers

Despite a lack of specific knowledge on the concept of “wage theft,” respondents overwhelmingly agreed (“strongly agreed” – 60 percent and “agreed” – 33 percent) that employers who cheat their employees out of the wages they have earned should be fined or punished in some way. And respondents nearly unanimously agreed that it is important (23 percent) or very important (68 percent) that the stores and restaurants they patronize pay their workers fairly for the wages that are owed.

“Wage theft continues to not only be a leading problem for low wage workers who can least afford being cheated in their paychecks, but also an increasingly growing problem for states who are being cheated out of million of dollars of tax revenue,” said Michell K. McIntyre, Project Director of NCL’s Special Project on Wage Theft.

The National Consumers League’s Special Project on Wage Theft seeks to raise awareness about the nature of wage theft in the United States and strives to educate consumers, workers, businesses and governments about wage theft issues.


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

These results are based on two national probability samples of 1,019 telephone interviews among adults 18 years of age and older, conducted from March 22-25, 2012.  The margin of error for data based on total sample is plus or minus 3 percentage points.  769 interviews were from the landline sample and 250 interviews from the cell phone sample. The survey was conducted by CARAVAN®, an omnibus service of ORC International for National Consumers League.

Consumers willing to sacrifice for worker welfare – National Consumers League

By Michell K. McIntyre, Director of NCL’s Special Project on Wage Theft

Consumers care. That simple idea can terrify businesses and start the waves of change for workers across the nation and around the world.  It can topple oppressive industries and pull back the curtain to show the ugly side of life in factories, restaurants, and stores.

With the National Consumers League’s newly commissioned survey, conducted by the Opinion Research Corporation, consumers have once again shown that they feel strongly (87 percent) about the products in their lives and they do not want products to be manufactured in unfair, overly harsh, or dangerous working conditions – and they are willing to make some sacrifices for it.

Nearly three-quarters (73 percent) of responders agreed that they would be “willing to wait longer to get the latest electronic gadgets if [they] knew it was produced under humane working conditions.” Thus taking a torch to the electronic industry’s excuse of using overseas factories to appease an ‘imagined’ consumer not willing to wait a few extra months for the latest devices and therefore, have their products produced in factories who employ overly harsh overtime policies and dangerous working conditions.

As evidenced in the recent Fair Labor Association’s report on Foxconn, the Chinese manufacturer for Apple, Sony, Nintendo and other technology giants, and the recent headlines concerning Apple, corporations are being forced to take a fresh look at they way they conduct business and who they work with.

Besides the technology giants, the restaurant and retail industries should be on notice to treat their workers fairly and not to try to cheat them out of their wages.  An overwhelming majority of respondents (91 percent) said it was important or very important to them “that the stores [they] shop in and the restaurants [they] eat in pay their workers fairly for the wages they are owed.” While 93 percent of respondents agreed or strongly agreed that “employers who cheat their employees out of the wage they have earned should be fined or punished in some way.”

With the Department of Labor’s recent crack down on the retail, hospitality, restaurant, and construction industries, wage theft (any time an employer illegally underpays or does not pay their employee) has been an increasingly hot topic amongst workers, local and state governments and workers’ rights groups.  With a loss in state and local tax revenue, state and local governments have seen how wage theft affects their bottom line and are looking for ways to help workers combat wage theft.

The National Consumers League’s Special Project on Wage Theft has been devoted to furthering the battle against wage theft, striving to educate workers, consumers, businesses, and governments on the effects of wage theft and is building an increased awareness about the nature of wage theft in the United States.

Baby steps towards cell phone cramming progress – National Consumers League

By Sally Greenberg, NCL Executive Director

Cell phones and “cramming”: we have had some – and I stress “some” — progress for consumers in recent weeks. After years of pressure from consumer groups – which NCL helped to lead – and hearings in the U.S. Senate, first Verizon and then AT&T agreed to block most unaffiliated third parties from adding charges onto landline phone bills. For years consumers have been discovering unauthorized charges on phone bills and to get rid of them, have had to go through 1-800 hell to get the charges removed. I’ve been through this: sometimes you get a sympathetic operator who cancels the charges without a fuss, and sometimes you have to fight up the supervisory ladder to get the charges dropped. For an extra $9.99 how many consumers are willing to devote sometimes an hour or more to fighting with some anonymous operator. Furthermore, many consumers either don’t realize the charges are unauthorized or never look at the bill.

So I said above “some” progress – while consumers won on blocking charges for landlines, what about blocking unauthorized charges on your cell phone?

David Segal’s “The Haggler” columns recently asked the question, why don’t the cell phone providers block third-party charges on cell phones too? Why isn’t there an opt-in requiring consumers to say “yes” when a third-party wants to charge for an added service? Instead of forcing us to opt out if they don’t want any third-party charges? Segal also notes that the carriers get up to a third or half of the revenue so it may not be in their interest to block crammers from adding on charges.

I have to agree with Segal; the pro-consumer angle is surely to give consumers the chance to opt-in if they want a third-party service and not require them to block all services on a case-by-case basis. Some consumers may actually want services, like weather updates or sports scores. Let those consumers provide an affirmative “yes” and the rest of us won’t have to get on the phone to cancel a service they didn’t order and don’t want.

NCL mourns passing of union leader – National Consumers League

April 9, 2012

Contact: NCL Communications, (202) 835-3323,

Washington, DC–The National Consumers League is saddened by the passing of a tireless leader in the workers rights movement, Mark Ayers, an AFL-CIO Vice President and President of the Building and Construction Trades Department. We mourn Mr. Ayers’ death as someone committed to bettering the lives of working families across the nation. As a US Navy veteran of the Vietnam War, Mr. Ayers took great pride in chairing the AFL-CIO’s Union Veterans Council, a group devoted to increasing veterans’ access to good jobs and quality health care. Our thoughts are with his family and friends and we honor a life devoted to fighting to restore the American dream to working families.


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