Continued fallout from ‘pink slime’ hysteria – National Consumers League

By Sally Greenberg, NCL Executive Director

Several weeks ago I blogged on the fate of the makers of so-called “pink slime”(its real name is Lean Finely Textured Beef or “LFTB” ) after reading a May 12, 2012 New York Times article by editorial page writer Phillip Boffey entitled “What If It Weren’t Called Pink Slime.” Boffey took a dispassionate look at the product and concluded, as the title of his article indicates, that “The first casualties of the hamburger ingredient contemptuously dubbed ‘pink slime’ will likely not be anyone who eats it but rather the workers who make it.”

At the time of the original media hype, NCL and Consumer Federation of America issued statements in an effort to quell the negative buzz and consumer fear about LFTB, but the horse had left the barn by then and, in the ensuing weeks, the makers of LFTB were forced to drastically cut production.

Boffey bemoaned the loss of 650 jobs at the plants that produce LFTB resulting from media-generated hysteria over what is actually a good product. He said it well: “The irony and the absurdity are that consumer experts say L.F.T.B. is safe, nutritious and relatively inexpensive.”

So two months later, what is the fallout for consumers now that the supply of LFTB is greatly reduced? Well, we looked through data from the U.S. Department of Agriculture and ran some calculations. The marketing division at USDA publishes figures on what people are buying and sure enough, because of vastly reduced supply, consumers are now forced to pay more for lean beef, while the fattiest ground beef is available for less. As a result, consumers are opting to buy the cheaper, fattier product. A year ago, fattier ground beef (73 percent lean) made up 37 percent of ground beef sold; it now comprises 48 percent of the ground beef sold. Conversely, there is now 23.3 percent less of the leanest ground beef (93 percent lean) available on the market. Lean ground beef is also 50 cents more expensive per pound at wholesale, meaning the price at the grocery store has jumped by close to 75 cents. This is a marked price increase and one that will hurt consumers.

None of this should have happened. Indeed, it’s a truly unfortunate result at a time when obesity is on the rise in America and every health expert is telling us to reduce, not increase, our fat intake. What I said in my first blog still applies: What a shame.

SLAP! Did you feel it? – National Consumers League

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

If you are one of the millions of American working women, did you feel a slap in the face earlier this week? The Senate voted yesterday to defeat the pay equity bill designed to fix the wage gap faced by most women who still make 77 cents for every dollar a man makes, and the outcome of the vote wasn’t pretty.

In an average year, the wage gap means a $10,784 loss for women, and the numbers for minority women are worse. But yesterday, the Senate had the chance to change that when they voted on the Paycheck Fairness Act. The Act went before the entire Senate, and the vote went straight along party lines – 52 in favor of the Act and 47 against the Act. Fifty Democrats, plus the two Independents, voted in favor of the Act, while 47 Republicans voted against the Act with one Republican choosing to abstain from the vote (Sen. Mark Kirk, Illinois)

Almost 50 years since the Equal Pay Act became law (1963) and made discrimination in the workplace illegal, why stop legislation designed to protect half of America’s workforce? Senate Republicans argued that the Act could adversely affect businesses if employees attempt to file pay-related lawsuits.

What about these women’s families? According to a Congressional report published and prepared by the Majority Staff of the Joint Economic Committee, in 2009, 25 percent of all U.S. families with children – 9.8 million families – are female-headed households. And according to the same report, by 2008, married working women’s income make up about 36 percent of the total family income. All of these millions of families are affected by the pay gap.

An extra $10,784 a year is not just a matter of injustice and inequality but also 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

What could you have done with an extra $10,784 a year?

NCL releases the Five Most Dangerous Jobs for Teens 2012 Report – National Consumers League

June 7, 2012

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

Washington, DC –With the school year winding down, many teenagers are in search of that increasingly hard-to-find summer job. The nation’s oldest consumer organization is warning teens and their parents to exercise caution in choosing summer jobs: every day in the United States about 400 teens are hurt on the job; every eleven days, a teen is killed at work.

In the Five Most Dangerous Jobs for Teens 2012, a new report on teen worker safety released by the National Consumers League (NCL), the consumer group is reminding teen jobseekers that some jobs are more dangerous than others and providing practical advice for teens and their parents on how to stay safe on the job.

“Our tough job market may lead young people who need jobs to take ones that are unsafe,” said Reid Maki, NCL’s Director for Social Responsibility and Fair Labor Standards. Since 2000, the percentage of working teens has fallen 40 percent—in part because the federal government has cut back on funding for youth programs and in part because of the global economic recession. The weakening of child labor laws in some states, and the withdrawal of proposed federal safety protections for children who work in agriculture, also mean that children may not be as safe in the coming year.

“Teens just entering the job market may not think that their job could kill them, but for 34 children and teenagers last year, it did.” said Maki. “Two 14-year-old girls detasseling corn last year in Illinois were electrocuted by irrigation equipment in a saturated field. A six-year-old died as he helped at his father’s landscaping business, feeding a branch into a woodchipper and instantly pulled in to his death,” said Maki. Thousands of teen workers are also injured. Two 17-year-olds in Oklahoma became trapped in grain augur last summer, losing a leg each—an example of the traumatic injuries that can occur.

NCL’s Five Most Dangerous Jobs for Teens in 2012: (full report here)

  • 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 ATV’s

One survey cited in the report found that more 10 percent of teenagers had been physically assaulted on the job and another 10 percent said they had been sexually harassed. The report also details dangers associated with work-related driving, meatpacking, and jobs in restaurants and retail stores.

“The National Consumers League issues our Five Most Dangerous Jobs for Teens report to remind teens and their parents to choose summer jobs wisely,” said Sally Greenberg, Executive Director of NCL. “We want teens to have a safe and productive work experience. The report provides valuable tips and suggestions to ensure that parents can help children protect themselves on the job and help teens be proactive about their own safety.”


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

NCL calls out American Crystal Sugar Company for inconsistencies regarding worker welfare – National Consumers League

June 6, 2012

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

Washington, DC–The National Consumers League, the oldest consumer advocacy organization in the country, sent a letter to the American Crystal Sugar Company today expressing disappointment with the company’s prolonged lockout of 1,300 union employees.

“We are perplexed at the continued actions of the American Crystal Sugar Company,” said Sally Greenberg, NCL’s Executive Director. The sugar industry supports industry-wide price supports and other subsides that they claim help create and maintain American jobs. This program costs American consumers an estimated $3.5 billion each year. NCL pointed out the inconsistencies in American Crystal’s position. “They profess their commitment to creating American jobs while at the same time locking out workers, all the while enjoying the largesse of consumer funded sugar subsidies.”

“Sugar growers have long justified the continued existence of the U.S. sugar program by pointing to their role as job creators,” said Greenberg. “We find this argument specious in light of American Crystal’s prolonged lockout of over 1,300 workers.” For nine months, since August 2011, the American Crystal Sugar Company, a sugar-beet processing company headquartered in Moorhead, Minnesota, has locked out union employees from their jobs.

“American Crystal should illustrate its commitment to creating and maintaining American jobs by engaging in good faith negotiations with its workers,” said Greenberg. “It is also time for the American government to stop subsidizing a profitable industry that treats American workers so poorly.”

Read Greenberg’s letter 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

America the outlier – National Consumers League

By Sally Greenberg, NCL Executive Director

I recently spoke – alongside other national consumer organizations – to the consumer specialists in the state attorneys general offices. These are the folks who are hugely important in representing the interests of consumers in the 50 states, fighting scams and going after consumer fraud.

At this session, I listed the consumer victories we’ve won during the Obama administration and before that under President Bush (top-to-bottom reforms of the Consumer Product Safety Act and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration). But for me, the most incredible consumer victory is the landmark passage of a national healthcare bill for American citizens, the law known as the Affordable Care Act. All the while I was aware that a number of state Attorneys General office represented in that room, in spite of their advocacy on behalf of consumers, are behind lawsuits to overturn the ACA. Why would state AG’s want to fight against the first bill ever to guarantee healthcare coverage to most consumers? This seems contrary to their role as defenders and advocates for consumers. In addition, surely the richest country in the world can afford to provide healthcare to our citizens.

Which put me in mind of an article I read recently. Fifteen percent of Americans have no healthcare coverage. But many far less affluent countries are moving to provide medical insurance coverage for all. China, for example, is on track to provide healthcare to 90 percent of its residents and its population dwarfs ours by almost 4 to 1. (According to the World Bank, China has 1 billion 300 million people.) Mexico has just completed an 8-year drive for universal coverage that has dramatically expanded Mexicans’ access to life saving treatments for diseases like leukemia and breast cancer.

Thailand’s GNP is 1/5 of the US, and 99 percent of Thais have health insurance. Rwanda and Ghana – two of the world’s poorest nations – are working to create insurance networks to cover their citizens. Countries are coming to the conclusion that for their long-term economic viability, universal healthcare is critical. They believe that remaining competitive globally and sustaining economic growth will depend on universal healthcare for citizens.

How does that work? Well, for example, the Chinese government found that citizens were saving excessively to cover healthcare costs and weren’t spending much-needed money to stimulate the economy. In Mexico, poor families who had to pull a child from school because of health would have to spend scarce assets – livestock or equipment — to cover healthcare costs. That reduced the viability of their operations. Mexico also found its citizens were being driven into bankruptcy because of healthcare costs. The same is true for the United States! at one point half those facing bankruptcy from credit card debt incurred that debt paying for unexpected healthcare costs. According to the experts, providing universal healthcare coverage is preventing millions of people worldwide from financial ruin.

So it really does makes you wonder why state AGs are fighting this basic protection and why the U.S. population is deadlocked over the issue. In March, a Kaiser poll showed that 41 percent of Americans support the ACA, while 40 percent oppose. A former World Bank Vice President, David de Ferranti, said about the United States: “We are really an outlier.” When you factor in what other far less affluent nations are providing near universal healthcare for their citizens, de Ferranti’s comments seem like an understatement. We can only hope that the ACA survives the challenge in the Supreme Court. If it does not, and the individual mandate is struck, we should go back to the drawing table and provide single payer insurance system for all citizens.