Obama SOTU proposal to increase federal minimum wage welcome by advocates – National Consumers League

February 13, 2013

Contact: Carol McKay, NCL, (412) 945-3242, carolm@nclnet.org

Washington, DC–The National Consumers League (NCL) applauds President Obama’s State of the Union proposal to increase the federal minimum wage. The proposal would give low wage workers a $1.75 an hour raise by increasing the federal minimum wage from $7.25 an hour to $9 an hour by the end of 2015 and index it to the rate of inflation, for the first time in history.

“After watching millions of families with two children struggle below the federal poverty line, it is gratifying to have the President address the economic realities faced of low wage workers,” said Sally Greenberg, Executive Director of NCL. “NCL agrees with the President that anyone who works full-time shouldn’t be living in poverty in this, the richest nation in the world.”

NCL also applauds the President’s call for the passage of the Paycheck Fairness Act, a bill that ensures men and women receive equal pay for equal work. The bill would require employers to demonstrate that any difference in salary between male and female workers doing the same job are not gender related, and protect workers from retaliation when sharing salary information with co-workers.

In order for a woman to prove that she’s been the victim of pay discrimination, she needs to be able to have access to co-worker salary information without employer retaliation. The Paycheck Fairness Act would help close the $10,784 annual wage gap between men and women in the U.S.

“Earning $10,784 less a year due to gender inequality is not just a matter of injustice and inequality, it’s also about economic stability,” said Michell K. McIntyre, Project Director of NCL’s Special Project on Wage Theft. “We will work diligently with the President, Congress and our civil rights and union allies to see this measure enacted.” 


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 www.nclnet.org.

Consumer group praises FTC for crackdown on Four Loko labeling – National Consumers League

February 13, 2013

Contact: Carol McKay, NCL, (412) 945-3242, carolm@nclnet.org

Washington, DC–The National Consumers League (NCL), the nation’s oldest consumer advocacy organization in the country, today applauded the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) for issuing a modified Order against Phusion Projects, LLC. The order addresses false claims made by the company regarding the alcohol content of its popular product, Four Loko. Specifically, the claim that “a 23.5-ounce can of Four Loko contains the alcohol equivalent of one or two regular 12-ounce beers” was ruled false. The modified order requires that the company apply to the U.S. Department of Treasury’s Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau (TTB) for approval to include an alcohol facts panel on the product. This label would include information about alcohol content, serving size, and servings per container. Additionally, the cans must be redesigned so they are re-sealable, allowing the consumer to drink the product in multiple sittings.

“We thank the FTC for its strong enforcement action that serves the interests of consumers in several important ways,” said Sally Greenberg, NCL’s Executive Director. “It is important that consumers are fully aware of how much alcohol they are consuming when they choose a beverage. NCL and other consumer groups have been working for years to get more information about nutritional facts and alcohol content included on these products.”

Four Loko first came to the public’s attention several years ago when concerns were raised over its combination of alcohol and caffeine, a blend which had caused the beverage to gain popularity with college students. After media coverage about college students who ended up in the hospital after consuming the beverage, and indications that the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) was planning to take action, Four Loko was reformulated to remove the caffeine. However, even with this reformulation, significant concerns about the product remained.

According to the FTC’s modified Order, Phusion Projects, LLC has 90 days to include the required label on its products. “We urge TTB to approve an alcohol facts panel label for Four Loko and to move forward on stalled rulemaking to implement such labels on all alcoholic products,” said Greenberg. “The decision by FTC represents another victory in the fight to ensure consumers are given robust and honest information with which they can make informed consumption decisions.”


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 www.nclnet.org.

Pausing to think about plight of world’s 300,000 child soldiers for a moment – National Consumers League

makiBy Reid Maki, Director of Social Responsibility and Fair Labor Standards

Today is an important day if you care about the welfare of children. Advocates have named February 12 “International Day against the Use of Child Soldiers” to highlight one of the worst forms of child labor. It’s hard to imagine that in 2013 the use of child soldiers is alive and thriving, but the BBC estimates that there are 300,000 child soldiers internationally. This number includes children of elementary school age who are handed automatic weapons and asked to kill, as well as others who are used for slave labor to support armies. Since January 2011, child soldiers have been used in at least 19 countries.

Many of the children suffer the worst forms of psychological warfare from their captors, who in many cases break them down by forcing them to kill or maim their friends or family. Many girls are sexually assaulted and forced to serve as sexual slaves. Many child victims are given drugs to keep them compliant. Their years of enforced service often produce intense psychological scarring that makes it hard to return to their communities. In some cases, they are shunned by their villages. Hear one girl’s compelling story in this YouTube video.

The Child Labor Coalition has tracked dozens of stories regarding the use of child soldiers over the last year and engages with its members to perform advocacy to reduce the use of child soldiers. Most recently, the warfare in Mali led to the recruitment of child soldiers, including children as young as 12. In early January, the United Nations decried the use of child soldiers in the Central African Republic, and in India, reports emerged that the militant group, the Garo National Liberation Army was using children in a variety of roles to support combat, including possibly the use of armed children. In early December, 2012, the U.S. government imposed sanctions on two “March 23 (M23)” leaders in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) for allegedly using child soldiers.

Not all the news has been bad. In June 2012, Burma made significant strides in reducing its use of child soldiers when it released an action plan to tackle the problem. In 2012, Yemeni authorities said they were committed to stopping the use of children in the military.

The challenges governments face to end the use of child soldiers are often formidable, however. A February 6th Huffington Post blog by Jake Scobey-Thal noted that despite some progress, child soldiers are still being used in Burma and cited the International Labour Organization that their numbers may be as high as 5,000.

Two members of the Child Labor Coalition, World Vision and Human Rights Watch (HRW), have been leaders in the effort to pressure the US government into abiding by a congressional law, the Child Soldiers Prevention Act, which prohibits military aid to countries that use child soldiers. They’ve also provided a valuable service with early warnings when civil strife reaches the point that children begin to be dragged into military conflicts as they have been recently in Mali, Syria and the DRC.

Is the U.S. doing enough to protect children from becoming child soldiers or from being harmed by military conflict? On February 5th, HRW cited recent recommendations by the United Nations (UN) committee of experts and urged the United States to do more to protect children harmed by conflict. The UN committee had expressed alarm about reports that hundreds of children have died during US airstrikes in Afghanistan over the last four years and noted that children have been arrested and detained in Afghanistan. US laws, said the committee of experts, have also excluded former child soldiers from securing asylum here.

“The US can and should do more to protect children affected by armed conflict,” said Jo Becker, children’s rights advocacy director at HRW, who urged the U.S. to “take decisive action” on the children rights committee’s recommendations to address these problems.

In November 2012, Jesse Eaves, a senior policy advisor for child protection for World Vision told IRIN Humanitarian News and Analysis that the use of presidential waivers which is becoming a frequent occurrence is weakening the authority of the Child Soldiers Prevention Act. “When the United States government gives a waiver to a country identified in the State Department’s [Trafficking in Persons] report as country using children in their national military, this weakens the authority of the law by not holding the country accountable for removing children from their armed forces,” said Eaves.

In a press release about International Day to End the Use of Child Soldiers, Amnesty International called on governments to adopt a global Arms Trade Treaty (ATT) to prevent armed forces, like those in Mali, from using weapons to recruit children as soldiers. Final talks on an ATT treaty are scheduled to occur in March, and according to Amnesty, “the current draft ATT text proposes weak rules to help prevent arms transfers to states or groups using child soldiers.”

Clearly much work remains to be done to get the U.S. and other governments to do the right thing when it comes to child soldiers, but working together, the members of the CLC and its allies hope that in the near future the use of child soldiers will be banished. Readers interested in this issue should visit the White House comment page and let their concerns about the use of child soldiers and presidential waivers of the provisions of the Child Soldiers Prevention Act be known.


Hoping Treasury Secretary-designee Lew takes a new tack – National Consumers League

By Sally Greenberg, NCL Executive Director

It appears that when the government was handing out TARP funds and bailing out ailing financial firms, the “special master for compensation” Patricia Geoghegan approved $6.2 million in raises for General Motors, Ally, and AIG. These are the findings of Christy Romero, special inspector general for TARP in her new report.

Surprise, surprise. Sheila Bair documents this preferential treatment for fat-cat executives in her book, Bull by the Horns. From Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner to Presidential Advisor Larry Summers, you can count on high-level government officials with ties to Wall Street time and again to look after their friends first before the American taxpayer.

When these bonuses were being bestowed on the industry icons, Treasury’s Compensation Chief Kenneth Feinberg (and former NCL Trumpeter Honoree), was appointed to a special oversight post created during the crisis. He scolded the companies for what he called “ill-advised” payouts to executives and vowed to curb lavish pay. Treasury nonetheless allowed seven firms to bypass pay restrictions from 2009 to 2011, according to this latest report from Christy Romero’s office. Romero said that “Treasury made no meaningful reform to its processes. Lacking criteria and an effective decision-making process, Treasury risks continuing to award executives of bailed out companies excessive cash compensation without good cause.”

That says it all. We can only hope that the new Treasury Secretary-designee, Jacob Lew, if he’s confirmed, will take a different tack. Forbes Magazine columnist Robert Lenzner has high hopes. He says in a recent column about Lew, “It’s a relief to have a man who is not in the hip pocket of the big banks, who is not part of the pin-striped old boys club, who’s likely to put the interests of his former brethren high on the priority list.” That’s a hopeful sign.

Consumer Groups Call on President and Congress to Pursue Strong Consumer Agenda – National Consumers League

February 1, 2013

Contact: Carol McKay, NCL, (412) 945-3242, carolm@nclnet.org

Washington, DC– In joint letters sent to President Obama and Congressional leaders, eight of the nation’s leading consumer organizations urged policymakers to pursue a strong, robust agenda of consumer reforms.

With the President’s second term and a new session of Congress underway, the groups are calling for measures to strengthen the consumer’s voice in Washington, to continue improvements in health care and financial services, and to ensure that Americans’ food and products are safe.  They are also advocating for energy and telecommunications reforms, policies to strengthen regulations that protect the public from harm, consumer legal rights, and actions to ensure the marketplace is fair, open, and competitive.

The letter was signed by presidents and executive directors of Consumer Action, Consumer Federation of America, Consumers Union, National Association of Consumer Advocates, National Consumers League, National Consumer Law Center, Public Citizen, and U.S. Public Interest Research Group.

“The agenda we are providing today is a key starting point for our recommendations regarding the top issues for consumers,” the groups wrote.  “By working together and helping consumers make more informed decisions, we are building an influential consumer movement that will be a force for change.”

Under the heading “An Agenda to Ensure Consumers are Heard” the groups laid out nine major initiatives that the White House and Congress should adopt in the next Administration and in the new Congress:

  • Elevate the consumer voice in government by reinstating the key position of the White House Special Advisor on Consumer Affairs, holding regular meetings with consumer leaders, and convening a White House conference on the state of the consumer today.
  • Continue to work to make health care affordable, accessible, and safe through measures such as protecting funding for the Affordable Care Act, Medicare, and Medicaid by reducing wasteful and unnecessary spending, not cutting services or shifting costs to consumers.
  • Continue to protect and expand upon the financial consumer protections secured in recent years, including the newly-created Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.
  • Ensure our food and products are safe by moving forward on still-pending food safety rules and implementing tougher standards for products, such as infant and toddler items.
  • Provide consumers with affordable and sustainable energy options by forcefully addressing climate change and promoting clean-energy initiatives.
  • Ensure that the Internet and other telecommunications services remain affordable and accessible, and consumers’ privacy is protected.
  • Support regulations that improve our quality of life and protect our health and safety, as well as oppose efforts to undercut the regulatory rulemaking process.
  • Improve consumer access to justice by reinstating legal rights.
  • Protect consumers by ensuring open, competitive and fair markets through tough enforcement of antitrust prohibitions on anticompetitive mergers and cracking down on monopolistic practices that lead to higher prices and fewer choices for consumers.

The letters were delivered to the White House and Senate Majority Leader Reid, Senate Republican Leader McConnell, Speaker of the House Boehner, and House Democratic Leader Pelosi.

For copies of the consumer groups’ letters and agenda, 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 www.nclnet.org.

Medication adherence challenge live today – National Consumers League

By Rebecca Burkholder, NCL Vice President for Health Policy

Today marks the launch of the 2013 Medication Adherence Team Challenge, a month-long competitive outreach project to engage student pharmacists and other health care professional students and faculty in coming up with creative solutions to raise awareness about medication adherence as a critical public health issue. With nearly three out of four Americans not taking their medications as directed—which results in serious health consequences, especially for people with chronic diseases—it will take a team of health care professionals to moved the needle on adherence.

The Challenge is just one part of the National Consumers League’s Script Your Future campaign, a 3-year program to raise awareness of the importance of medication adherence. Launched in 2011, the campaign has more than 130 public and private stakeholder organizations, and provides tools to help patients and health care professionals better communicate about ways to improve medication adherence.

During the month of February the Challenge will engage interdisciplinary student teams from pharmacy, medicine, nursing, and other health professions to tackle the problem of poor adherence.  The teams will be implementing creative solutions and outreach in their communities to raise awareness and improve understanding about medication adherence, using Script Your Future materials.  At the end of the Challenge, select schools or colleges will be recognized nationally for their efforts to improve medication adherence.

“One of the best hopes we have for changing our culture of nonadherence is to train the next generation of health care professionals to be proactive about engaging their patients, and that starts in the classroom through the innovation brought forward by health professions faculty,” said Sally Greenberg, NCL Executive Director.

The Challenge is returning to university campuses across the country after a successful first year of student innovation. To learn more about last year’s winners visit the Script Your Future Web site. The winners of Challenge 2013 will be announced later this spring.

This year’s Challenge is sponsored by the American Association of Colleges of Pharmacy (AACP), the National Association of Chain Drug Stores (NACDS) Foundation, the American Medical Association (AMA), and the National Community Pharmacists Association (NCPA).

For more information on the Challenge visit the Challenge Community at https://syfadherencechallenge.ning.com/. Follow the challenge on Twitter at #SYFchallenge.  To learn more about the campaign, go to www.ScriptYourFuture.org.