NCL Applauds Supreme Court decision on individual mandate in health care law – National Consumers League

June 28, 2012

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

Washington, DC—The National Consumers League (NCL), the nation’s oldest consumer group, announced today that it is pleased at the Supreme Court’s action to uphold the individual mandate of the Affordable Care Act (ACA), a move that will extend health care coverage to more than 30 million Americans who currently lack it. NCL stands with other consumer, health, and worker groups, in support of the ACA. For decades, NCL has advocated for substantive reform to America’s health care system and was a staunch supporter of the Affordable Care Act when it passed in 2010.

“The Supreme Court’s landmark decision upholding The Affordable Care Act is a giant step toward the goal of providing health insurance for all Americans,” said Sally Greenberg, NCL Executive Director.  “We applaud the Court’s decision and look forward to broad implementation of the law. This decision brings the United States into league with the ever-growing number of nations – rich and poor – that have found it to be economically prudent to provide health care to their citizens. NCL hails this historic decision as a great victory for consumers, one that signifies a move toward a more patient-centered and cost effective health care system. We stand by the law, and the protections and coverage it has already afforded millions of Americans.”


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 organization to air concerns before Aviation Consumer Protection Board – National Consumers League

June 28, 2012 

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

Washington, DC–The National Consumers League is testifying today before the newly formed federal Advisory Committee for Aviation Consumer Protection, calling on the Committee to address consumer concerns and provide basic consumer protections to the flying public. “We welcome the formation of this critical Advisory Committee to hear concerns from consumer and business groups and the flying public,” said Sally Greenberg, NCL’s Executive Director. “We look forward to sharing the experiences and frustrations of so many passengers who deal with the airlines,” said Greenberg. She is giving testimony today at the Department of Transportation (DOT).

NCL will be discussing a range of issues, from consumer privacy, the explosion of fees for luggage, seats, food, pillows, etc., above and beyond ticket prices, the need for greater fare and fee transparency, added scrutiny on change and cancellation fees, contract protections for consumers in frequent flyer programs, and opening consumer access to state courts in airline suits.

The FAA Modernization and Reform Act of 2012 (Pub. L. 112-95, 126 Stat.11 (2012) mandated the establishment of a committee to advise the Secretary of Transportation on airline customer service improvements. The Secretary established the Advisory Committee on May 24, 2012 and appointed four members, Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan as chair, David Berg from Airlines for America, Deborah Ale-Flint, Oakland International Airport’s director of Aviation, and Charles Leocha of the Consumer Travel Alliance. The meeting is scheduled to run from 9 am to 5 pm in the Oklahoma City Room at the US Department of Transportation.

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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

Safer saws would prevent injuries and $2 billion annual loss – National Consumers League

By Christiana Oatman, NCL Communications intern

Christiana Oatman is a native Californian and a rising senior at University of the Pacific, where she studies history and gender studies. She is the Communications intern at NCL. Her internship is part of the Fund for American Studies’ Institute of Political Journalism program at Georgetown University.

I recently had the opportunity to watch National Consumers League Executive Director Sally Greenberg testify on a panel at the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) budget hearing on June 20, 2012 to propose that the CPSC implement tougher safety standards on table saws, ATVs, and other dangerous products frequently used by American consumers. Greenberg urged the CPSC to dedicate staff, money, and resources to finalize a mandatory safety standard.

NCL, along with other consumer organizations, requested in October 2011 that the CPSC consider enacting “a technology-neutral performance standard that would require manufacturers to equip table saws with safety devices that would mitigate injury when the operator comes in contact with, or in close proximity to, the spinning blade.” Multiple forms of safety technology exist, but only one, SawStop, is currently on the market.

Tens of thousands of accidents involving table saws happen every year, including ten finger amputations a day. According to the NCL, “These injuries cost society well over $2 billion every year.”

For the past 50 years, the only safety technology on table saws was the blade guard. The blade guard is often removed because it is inconvenient for many types of cuts. Two thirds of table saw injuries reported were without a blade guard. Updated technology does not create the same hurdles that the blade guard does. The average cost for adding newer safety technology on a table saw is $100, which is cost-effective compared to the potential medical and emotional costs of a table saw accident.

The Web site Fine Woodworking has a table saw safety guide to prevent as many accidents as possible. It recommends that you never use a table saw tired or under the influence, wear gear to protect your eyes and ears and use a riving knife and push sticks. Many table saw safety tips are designed to prevent kickback, when a piece of stock moves towards you, which is one of the most common causes of table saw injuries. Fine Woodworking recommends that you use a blade guard, but also notes that blade guards cannot be used for every cut. Even with all these precautions, accidents do happen and some could have been prevented by the new technology.

As one of the three interns who watched Greenberg’s testimony, I found her arguments convincing, as did the CPSC members who responded and asked her questions. Greenberg and the CPSC members were very sympathetic to those who have been injured by table saws, and hopefully Greenberg’s persuasive skills will lead to a progressive change in CPSC policy.

ILO estimate: 21 million experienced forced labor during 10-year period – National Consumers League

By Steven Dorshkind, NCL public policy intern

Steven Dorshkind, a child labor intern at the NCL this summer, is a junior at Wayne State University in Detroit, Michigan, where he is studying politics and history. Steven is currently studying at The George Washington University in the Semester in Washington Politics, which made it possible for him to get this internship.

Slavery seems like a relic of the past, but unfortunately, millions of people are still enduring slave-like conditions. The International Labour Organization (ILO) released a report this month that estimates that 20.9 million people experienced forced labor in the period of 2002-2011. Sadly, about one in four forced labor victims or about 5.5 million individuals are children.

The ILO estimated in 2005 that about 12.3 million persons were in forced labor. A new survey methodology led to the sizable jump in the number of forced labor victims, which the ILO believes is a much more accurate estimate than the 2005 figure. The term forced labor refers to all work or service which is exacted from any person under the menace of any penalty and for which the individual has not offered himself voluntarily.

The private sector is responsible for 90 percent of all forced labor, the rest is forced labor caused by governments, including prison labor and forced military service. The private sector forced labor is divided into sexual and labor exploitation. Of all the people exploited for labor, about 44 percent are moved internally or internationally, and the rest are forced into labor in their place of origin or residence. Those who are moved internally are mainly exploited for sexual reasons; 98 percent are women. These women are usually taken from their homes and families and brought to unfamiliar areas where they are forced to perform sexual acts for strangers – sometimes for years.

The highest incidence of forced labor occurred in Central and South Eastern Europe (non-European Union (EU)) at 4.2 individuals per thousand, Africa at 4.0, the Middle East at 3.4, Asia and the Pacific at 3.3, Latin America and the Caribbean at 3.1, and Developed Economies and EU nations at 1.5. Of these, 74 percent of people are 18 years and older, and of those 55 percent are women and girls, some 11.4 million, while 45 percent are men and boys (about 9.5 million).

The average period of time that victims spend in forced labor, in reported cases, is approximately 18 months. Unfortunately, many people serve in forced labor for a great deal longer, some reported cases have gone as far as six to ten years. Most of these reported cases with long durations end due to some form of intervention. By estimating the amount of time that an unreported case persists, the ILO estimates that the average unreported case of forced labor lasts about 29.4 months, or just about two and a half years.

The sickening truth is that modern-day slavery is still out there, and it is destroying the lives of millions of people. To understand the magnitude of the phenomenon, one must imagine a population similar to New York State’s – a forced labor site where the entire population is coerced to perform labor and all the inhabitants have their basic human rights and freedoms erased. The magnitude of this problem becomes evident, and the need for a solution becomes manifest. One hopes that the ILO forced labor estimate will create the will needed to address this vexing problem.

NCL’s Greenberg testifying before CPSC: Table saws, ATVs, fire hazards – National Consumers League

June 20, 2012





Chairman Inez Tenenbaum
Commissioners Robert Adler, Nancy Nord and Anne Northup
U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission
4330 East-West Highway
Bethesda, Maryland 20814


SUBJECT: Agenda and Priorities FY 2014 

Dear Chairman Tenenbaum and Commissioners Adler, Nord and Northup:

On behalf of the National Consumers League,  I urge the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission to place the following issues among its top priorities in fiscal year 2014:

I. Table Saw Safety

On October 11, 2011, CPSC published an Advanced Notice of Proposed Rulemaking to consider whether to promulgate a mandatory performance standard to address the unreasonable risk of injury associated with table saws.  The National Consumers League, joined by Consumer Federation of America, Consumers Union, Public Citizen, and U.S. PIRG, submitted comments urging the Çommission to move forward with the rulemaking.

Our comments noted that tens of thousands of serious injuries occur every year as a result of contact with a table saw blade while in operation.  These injuries cost society well over $2 billion every year.[1] The benefits of reducing these injuries outweigh the costs to manufacturers of re-designing their saws.  The voluntary standard that has existed, with modifications, since 1971, now requires table saws to be equipped with a modular blade guard and riving knife.  While the latest version of the standard is a modest improvement over previous versions, blade guards, riving knives and other anti-kickback devices alone are not effectively addressing the tens of thousands of serious blade contact injuries that continue to occur.

We urged CPSC to enact a technology-neutral performance standard that would require manufacturers to equip table saws with safety devices that would mitigate injury when the operator comes in contact with, or in close proximity to, the spinning blade.

The comment period for the ANPR has passed, and we understand the CPSC staff is currently reviewing the comments to determine whether to recommend that the agency published a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking.  We hope that the Commission will publish an NPR soon, so that a standard can be enacted as quickly as possible.  With every day that goes by, approximately ten more people lose fingers in preventable table saw accidents.

We urge the Commission to budget staff time and resources in fiscal year 2014 for what we hope will be the final stages of the rulemaking process for a table saw safety standard.  It is long overdue.

II. All Terrain Vehicle Safety

We also urge the Commission to budget staff time and resources in fiscal year 2014 for All Terrain Vehicles.  We recognize in 2012 that the Commission is expected to complete its 2006 rulemaking. However, we urge the Commission specifically to commit resources to continuing research related to ATV safety in fiscal year 2014 and beyond.

III.  Fire and Carbon Monoxide Hazards 

We urge the Commission’s continued commitment to technical research in the areas of fire and carbon monoxide hazards. CPSC’s own data indicate that there are annually 386,000 fires, 2,390 deaths, 12,530 injuries and $6.92 billion property losses related to fires. Cooking equipment and heating equipment account for the largest shares of these fires. We need federal safety agencies with CPSC’s jurisdiction to continue research into ways to make cooktops and space heaters safer and less likely to start fires.

Regarding carbon monoxide, CPSC’s own data indicate that there are close to 200 unintentional, non-fire CO deaths a year from consumer products such as generators and gas fueled furnaces. This does not count the more than 200 deaths a year CDC attributes to CO exposure from automobiles. We urge CPSC to remain focused on technological solutions that will prevent  these useful products from silently killing consumers. Finally, both hazards can be mitigated by effective, and relatively inexpensive, alarms. We urge the Commission to make upgrades and updates to the smoke alarm and carbon monoxide alarm standards a priority in 2014 and beyond.

[1] Caroleene Paul, Briefing Package, Recommended Advance Notice of Proposed Rulemaking for Performance Requirements to Address Table Saw Blade Contact Injuries, U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (September 2011) [hereinafter – “CPSC ANPR Staff Briefing Package”] pages 2-3.

NCL statement in support for S.B. 875/A-2258 in New Jersey legislature – National Consumers League

June 18, 2012

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

Washington, DC–The National Consumers League today announced its strong support for S.B. 875/A-2258, pro-consumer ticketing legislation currently pending in the New Jersey state legislature. The League, founded in 1899, is America’s pioneer consumer organization.  Since 2009, NCL has led the fight to protect consumers at all levels of the live event industry.  This includes support for legislation that prohibits ticket-buying “bot” software, increases transparency of ticket holdbacks and promotes transferability and consumer choice in the secondary ticket market.

The following statement is attributable to John Breyault, NCL Vice President of Public Policy, Telecommunications and Fraud, who today testified in support of the bills:

“Consumers deserve a fair shot at buying tickets, and when they buy those tickets they should own them.  Instead, they often find themselves at the mercy of ticket ‘bots’ and ticketing companies that hold back thousands of tickets for the benefit of V.I.P.’s, promoters, team owners and ticket brokers.  What’s worse, rather that work with consumer groups to address these issues, Ticketmaster continues to promote paperless ticketing – an anti-fan technology that takes away consumers’ rights to share or resell tickets or even to donate their tickets to charities.  We applaud the sponsors of S.B. 875 and A-2258 for their leadership and look forward to working with them to protect consumers in the Garden State.”

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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,

Understanding Bloomberg’s ‘audacious’ soda proposal – National Consumers League

By Sally Greenberg, NCL Executive Director

New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg dropped a bombshell a few weeks ago. He proposed limiting sugary drinks sold by restaurants, cinemas, street vendors and stadiums in New York City to 16 ounces. Why did the Mayor make this audacious proposal? For one reason: obesity rates in the US and New York City are soaring and the experts say by 2030 40 percent of Americans will be obese. Two thirds of adults are now overweight or obese; (According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 68 percent of adults in the US were either overweight or obese). One third of children are overweight or obese. Will Bloomberg’s proposal work? I don’t know, but it sure has gotten people talking: about nutrition, empty calories, obesity and the role of government. And I think that’s a good thing.

For example, people have learned a little more about sugary sodas. That they have no nutritional value and pack a lot of calories; that they are easily consumed in large quantities. A 12 ounce can of Coca Cola, for instance, has 140 calories. I admit it – I like the taste of real Coca Cola; I even crave it sometimes. But with a large cup, that 140 calorie drink can easily turn into 20 ounces or 233 calories. Also, many consumers have no idea how many calories they are consuming when they buy these oversized drinks or even how many calories they should be consuming in one day. (2,000 calories a day is the recommended intake for the average person.) To make matters worse, fast food joints make it cost-effective to buy the largest sizes; they are often only pennies more than the smallest drinks. Hey, more for less!

Why pick on soft drinks? New York Health Commissioner Tom Farley spoke to this issue. “We know that portion sizes have risen dramatically. And we know that sugary drinks have this uniquely strong connection with weight gain.”

The costs to the health care system of this excess avoirdupois are estimated to be $192 billion a year and unfortunately taxpayers underwrite a lot of those costs. Federal Medicaid and Medicare programs provide health care for millions of patients and thus treat the diseases caused or exacerbated by obesity: diabetes, heart disease, hypertension, cancer. And talk about cross purposes! I just learned that food stamps can be used to buy soft drinks. According to the Center for Science in the Public Interest, $4 billion worth of food stamp money is spent that way. (That shouldn’t be! Soda calories are utterly bereft of any nutritional value. Poor people in America suffer from obesity in far greater numbers and the food stamp program is intended to get people nutritious foods, especially children.)

The soft drink industry is fighting back with every arrow in their PR quiver, as always. PepsiCo threatened to move out of New York a few years ago when there was a threat of an 18 percent tax on soda (to be used to reduce consumption and pay for health care.) This time around, the sugary beverage boosters ran a very funny ad in the New York Times! A sense of humor always helps.

“…soda is not driving the obesity rate,” says Chris Gindlesperger, with the American Beverage Association. “New York City health department has an unhealthy obsession with attacking soft drinks.” Well, maybe. But there’s a method to their madness.

Meanwhile, unlike the proposed sugar tax, which was crushed by the beverage industry, Mayor Bloomberg’s proposal is virtually assured to pass. Only the city’s health board needs to sign off on it and all are mayoral appointees. One piece of good news is that consumption of sugary drinks is down from 1998 by about 24 percent. Let’s keep that trend going.

One of the biggest obstacles is that efforts to combat consumption of high calorie drinks are drowned out by the advertising of beverages – all kinds of beverages from sweetened sodas, to sports drinks, to power drinks to caffeinated drinks, the list is endless. Most have hidden calories, and little if any nutritional value.

And the ubiquity of these beverages is mind-boggling. Walk into any drug or convenience store and there’s invariably a long wall of refrigerated drinks, most of them not the low-calorie version. I can’t find sugar-free or “diet” ice tea versions in any CVS in my neighborhood.

So I support what Mayor Bloomberg and New York City are trying to do – open up the discussion, say no to the purveyors of oversized, calorie laden and nutritionally empty drinks and in the process lets all learn more about what we’re eating and drinking, whether it has any nutritional value and hopefully keep a check on the explosion in obesity and the related costs associated with this American health epidemic.

You on Twitter? So are scammers – National Consumers League

Many consumers find the popular social media site, Twitter, useful for staying in touch with friends and family and getting updates from organizations or famous people. Unfortunately, scammers see the millions of Twitter users very differently: as potential targets.Scams on Twitter usually involve some kind of link or promise from either a user you don’t know or a user whose account has been compromised.

A common scheme is for a scammer to create an account then follow or direct message hundreds or thousands of other users. Each time a user is followed, they receive an alert with a link to the scammer’s profile. The profile often contains links to malware or phishing sites. A recently popular method of this is a direct message or tweet with a message like “lol is this really you?” with a link attached.

Yet another scheme scammers use is to post something that leads to a link that looks like a Twitter login page, but isn’t, and thus when a user types in his username and password, the fraudster has access to their account and can use it to target others.

Other signs of a fraudulent account are: repeatedly posting duplicate updates, abusing basic functions of Twitter to get attention, and posting links with unrelated tweets.

How can Twitter users avoid falling for a scam?

Twitter users should ignore any direct messages or tweets that promise that by simply clicking on a link they will receive thousands of followers. Any “get followers quick” method promised by someone else is a way to steal money or private information.

Twitter is aware of scammers using its site, and shuts down the accounts of spammers users report, so users shouldn’t hesitate to report a suspicious Twitter handle that displays any of the red flags. Other tips for using Twitter and avoiding the pitfalls of a scam are:

  • Use a strong password
  • Always make sure you’re on before giving login information
  • Use HTTPs for security
  • Beware of direct messages from people you don’t know, especially if they promise to help you “immediately” get thousands of followers
  • Be suspicious is you are followed by someone posing as a celebrity. Well-known Twitter users often have Verified Accounts (signified by a check mark next to their profile name)
  • If you don’t know someone following you, don’t click on links in their profile.
  • If you encounter abusive and/or annoying behavior on Twitter, block and ignore the profile responsible and report it to Twitter.

There are many organizations with Twitter accounts that work to protect people from online fraud and other consumer issues such as the Better Business Bureau (@BBB_US) and the Federal Trade Commission (@FTCgov), Visa Security Sense (@visasecurity), (@StopBadware), (@StopThinkConnect) and the National Cyber Security Alliance (@StaySafeOnline).

Twitter’s Help Center (@Support) also provides useful information on identifying spammers and protecting your account.

Stay safe and have fun in the Twittersphere!

Consumer Action and The National Consumers League joint statement on Michigan Senate Introducing Pro-Consumer Ticketing Legislation – National Consumers League

June 14, 2012

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

Washington, DC–Consumer Action and the National Consumers League jointly issued the following statement regarding the introduction in the Michigan Senate of SB 1186 and SB 1187, legislation protecting the rights of Michigan’s live event fans.

“Going to a concert or sporting event should be an exciting occasion for consumers. Unfortunately, consumers too often walk away confused and angry from the ticket-buying experience. This is because unscrupulous scalpers use sophisticated software bots to cut in line and grab the best tickets to the hottest events.  Artists, promoters and venues hold back thousands of tickets for fan club pre-sales, credit card users and VIPs. Even when they are lucky enough to buy tickets, restrictive paperless tickets dictate how – or whether – consumers can share or transfer their tickets, including whether they are permitted to give away tickets to charitable organizations or give them as a gift.

We applaud State Senator Joe Hune for his leadership in protecting live event fans and promoting competition in the market for tickets.”


About Consumer Action

Consumer Action has been a champion of underrepresented consumers nationwide since 1971. A nonprofit 501(c)3 organization, Consumer Action focuses on consumer education that empowers low to moderate income and limited-English-speaking consumers to financially prosper. It also advocates for consumers in the media and before lawmakers to advance consumer rights and promote industry-wide change.

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

Teens: summer jobs to avoid – National Consumers League

Every 11 days, a child worker dies. Stories of on-the-job deaths and injuries are heart wrenching, and are more common amongst children and adolescents than their adult co-workers, according to the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH). A ten-year-old boy in Florida accidentally ran over his younger brother while driving a pickup truck in an orange grove. A teenager, Danilo Riccardi Jr., fell into a hole while trying to mix concrete. It took three hours for rescuers to get his body. A member of a traveling sales crew, Tracie Anaya Jones, was found dead of stab wounds in 2007. Her body was found 150 miles away from where she was last seen and the case has not still been solved.

In order to prevent more tragedies from happening, the National Consumers League released its list of the Five Most Dangerous Teen Jobs in time for the start of summer, when many teenagers are looking for jobs to develop skills and earn much-needed money. This year’s most dangerous jobs are

  • Agriculture (Harvesting Crops and Using Machinery)
  • Construction and Height Work
  • Traveling Youth Sales Crews
  • Outside Helper (Landscaping, Groundskeeping and Lawn Service)
  • Driver/Operator (Forklifts, Tractors and ATVs). This list is unranked.

According to the Associated Press, “fewer than three in 10 American teenagers now hold jobs from June to August.” The article also noted that 44 percent of teens who want summer jobs either don’t end up getting them or work fewer hours than they would like to. Department of Labor research notes that the numbers are even lower amongst people of color: “only 34.6 percent of African-American youth and 42.9 percent of Hispanic youth had a job this past July.” This means that teens are more willing to take any job they can get, which advocates fear makes it more likely that they do not consider possible safety hazards or take the time to ask questions about comprehensive training and potential risks. In order to present teens with job options, the Department of Labor created the Summer Jobs+ program, which encourages non-profits and companies to hire teenagers and connects teens to those opportunities. No matter how teens find that perfect summer job, they should always be knowledgeable about potential dangers. Even a seemingly safe job can go badly.

“If your instincts are screaming ’Get out of here!’ then you should listen. If you’re being harassed at work, if you feel unsafe or if the working conditions are affecting your health, you should talk to your boss about making a change – or just quit,” – good advice from Snag a Job, an employment tips Web site.

While there are labor laws and age limitations in place to protect teens and children from work-related injuries and fatalities, those laws are not often followed or may contain certain loopholes. For example, age restrictions for working with equipment such as tractors are lower for agriculture jobs, even though agriculture has been shown to be one of the most dangerous industries for teens; for workers 15 to 17, the risk of fatal injury is four times the risk for young workers in other workplaces, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. More teens and adults should be aware of how the law does and does not protect them in the workplace – and encourage their legislative representatives to fix these laws to save and protect young workers.

There are basic steps employers and employees can take to prevent most accidents and assaults. Teens should not be asked by their employer to drive a vehicle or to work alone at night, and if they are asked, they should be willing to say “no, I won’t do that.” Being safe and healthy is more important than potentially losing a job. When first working with new equipment, any employee, regardless of age, should ask for detailed instructions on how to carefully use the equipment. Many accidents occur because employees were not properly trained. Even if training does occur, employees should be careful when using risky equipment. Too many accidents happen because an employee is not paying attention or playing around.

NCL recommends that parents become involved in their teen’s job search. This may seem counterproductive for teens using their job experience to develop independence, but parents must be aware of the safety conditions and hours of their teen’s (potential) job before and after their teenager is hired.

For more information about labor laws, age restrictions and other information on teen employment, visit the Department of Labor’s Web site, Youth Rules. You can read the full report here.