Greenberg remarks at United Mine Workers of America rally in St. Louis – National Consumers League

April 29, 2013

My name is Sally Greenberg, and I am the Executive Director of the National Consumers League.

NCL is a consumer and worker advocacy organization that has been fighting for fair labor standards since 1899! Our founder, Florence Kelley, wrote and implemented the country’s first minimum wage laws, maximum hours laws and her pioneering work was instrumental in getting our nation’s children out of factories and mines. NCL’s early leadership advocated for national health insurance and social security benefits for retirees.

Today, we stand with the United Mine Workers of America to show our support and solidarity for the 22,500 people affected by this egregious and outrageous example of corporate greed. No one has done more to build this nation or worked harder by the sweat of their brow or given more lives than our nation’s coal miners! The loyalty and camaraderie demonstrated here today is remarkable and uplifting! We are HONORED to be among you today!

NCL represents both workers AND consumers. Consumers have an inherent sense of fairness, especially about hard won bargained for healthcare and retirement benefits. Together we will fight to ensure that this abuse of workers and abuse of power will not be a roadmap for any other company to follow!

The industry made promises to thousands of workers. NCL stands with those women and men and every working family to demand our voices are heard and those promises are kept!! This issue that not only affects coal miners but every single worker in this country. Fairness at Patriot represents Fairness for all!


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

The human costs of big business: preventable workplace disasters – National Consumers League

What do the explosion at a fertilizer plant in West, Texas, the fire at Exxon’s Beaumont, Texas refinery, the building collapse in Bangladesh, and injuries at American poultry processing plants have in common? They are all examples of employees going to work and getting injured or dying on the job. Everyday in America, 13 workers go to their job and never come home.

April 28 was Workers Memorial Day, a day set aside to honor the hundreds of thousands of men and women who have suffered and died on the job from workplace injuries and diseases. Each death has left friends and family behind who have to pick up the pieces and move on with a new reality.

In many cases, the injuries and lives lost could have been prevented. Under the slogan “Job-killing regulations!” industry has fought for fewer regulations and less government oversight. Industry argues that more rules to follow and guidelines to meet result in lower productivity and fewer jobs. They have successfully lobbied government, on all levels, to create “toothless” regulations. However, reality reveals the true costs of deregulation – worker injuries, deaths, and in some cases—the devastation of entire communities.

The West Fertilizer Company plant, where the Texas explosion occurred on April 18, 2013, had not seen a U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) inspector in 28 years. The West Fertilizer Company plant had not been placed on the U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s (DHS) list of 4,000 facilities with high-risk chemicals. After 9/11, Congress passed a law that requires plants that use or store explosives or high-risk chemicals to file reports with DHS in order to increase security at those facilities. The requirement includes any plant with more than 400 pounds of ammonium nitrate, but, according to a DHS official, the West Fertilizer Company had 1,350 times the required amount and failed to file the report. The plant simply fell through the cracks of regulatory oversight.

Along with agriculture, mining, and construction, the energy industry has one of the highest death and injury rates in the United States. The fire at Exxon’s Beaumont refinery on April 17, 2013, resulted in 12 contract workers being injured on the job. According to an April 22 National Council for Occupational Safety and Health (COSH) press conference, temporary and contract workers are more likely than full-time employees to be injured or die on the job due to insufficient training. In many cases, prior to working in dangerous jobs, temporary and contract workers receive only minimal training. Since the company that employ the temporary workers is not always the same entity that is paying them, the company is incentivized to assume less responsibility by skirting laws such as providing workers compensation and paying taxes. Many of these workers don’t know whom to turn to in the event of injury—the company where they worked or the entity that hired them—to receive workers compensation and report injuries.

The collapse of the 8-story factory building in Bangladesh on April 24, 2013, which killed more than 377 people, has, once again, placed the spotlight on the poor and unsafe working conditions of those who create products for American consumers. International businesses, many based in the United States, used this factory, as well as the Tazreen Fashions factory where a devastating fire killed at least 112 workers this past November, to manufacture many of their garments. Western businesses need to wake up and realize the human cost of the race to the lowest prices.

Clothing brands and retailers like Walmart, H&M, Sears, and the Gap, which buy billions of dollars of clothes from Bangladesh, need to demand and pay for adequate safeguards at the factories that fill their orders. These companies have the power to demand better working conditions from these factories and improve the health and safety of millions of workers. International factory workers, especially those in China and Bangladesh – the two leading garment-producing nations – lack collective bargaining agreements and unions. Historically, unions have ushered in safer working conditions. In the case of the building collapse, strong unions could have prevented the loss of many lives by supporting workers who had noticed cracks in the structure but were forced back to work when factory owners threatened to dock their pay and fire them.

After the eye-opening Washington Post article on poultry processing plants, profiling a plant inspector who died after his lungs bled out, American consumers are faced with tough questions about how we produce our food. The poultry processing industry, along with the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), are poised to change the way they process and inspect our chickens and turkeys but at what costs? The proposed rule increases the use of chemical baths and sprays, including chlorine and peracetic acid (chemicals that have been labeled toxic by their manufacturing plants), transfers inspection duties from federal employees to plant employees, and increases the speed of inspection – from four USDA inspectors inspecting 140 birds per minute to one USDA inspector inspecting 175 birds per minute – 3 birds per second.

The proposed rule has been heralded by industry and some in government as a way to save the government money by staffing plants with fewer USDA inspectors, while also allowing the poultry industry to increase profits by processing more birds. While it seems to be a win-win for the government and industry, what about the workers and American consumers? So far, there has not been a comprehensive USDA study about the possible side effects created from an increased reliance on chemicals. Besides the death of Jose Navarro, the inspector whose lungs bled out, other poultry plant employees have reported injuries, due to the increased use of toxic chemicals, ranging from respiratory system irritation (including coughing up blood) to rashes on their arms and legs and an epidemic of pain from musculoskeletal disorders (including carpal tunnel) due to the increase in line speed.

In these four examples – all of which occurred in a two-week span – big business has put its interests ahead of the interests of its employees. Either through lobbying to weaken regulations and government oversight, or simply gross negligence, industry has gambled with people’s lives. Unfortunately, it is the workers who pay when this gamble fails. Government is continuously lobbied by industry to either weaken existing regulations or prevent new proposed regulations from becoming law. Industry has lobbied to skewer government agency budgets to prevent proper funding to agencies tasked with inspecting duties. For example, OSHA has about 2,200 inspectors for 130,000,000 workers and due to budgetary restrictions cannot hire and train more inspectors. It’s time to demand more from big business and government.

FDA issues advisory on foreign counterfeit Botox – National Consumers League

The FDA has issued an advisory, warning consumers and healthcare professionals about counterfeit Botox that has entered the marketplace.  The outer carton of these counterfeit products appears to be the FDA approved version of Botox, but inside there is a foreign version of Botox, not approved by the FDA. These counterfeits are being sold through “blast faxes” in which a foreign company solicits sales from medical practices at very low prices.

There is no indication that the FDA approved version of Botox is unsafe, but these foreign counterfeit versions are unfamiliar and untested. Medical practices should not purchase products that are unsolicited. Signs that the Botox is counterfeit include the incorrect active ingredient listed on the outer carton, or expiration dates on the outer carton that do not match the accompanying vial enclosed within.

Consumers must be aware that fraudulent Botox is being widely distributed, and should take extra precaution before beginning Botox treatment. If you see any suspicious looking products please report these cases of fraud immediately to, the FDA, or call the FDA’s Office of Criminal Investigations at 1-800-551-3989 to prevent other consumers from falling victim to the same traps.

TEDMED’s take on the future of health – National Consumers League

By Rebecca Burkholder, NCL Vice President for Health Policy

I attended TEDMED last week, a one-of-a-kind event that explores the future of health and medicine through the lens of innovators and artists. During the three-day event at the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, in Washington, DC, we heard from an array of speakers on a variety of topics from the power of small data to monitor our health to treating gun violence as a health epidemic. Attendees even got a workout session with fitness guru Richard Simmons. The TEDMED format uses short talks that focus on the story behind the science. TED stands for technology, entertainment, and design—elements that are interwoven throughout the event.

NCL’s Rebecca Burkholder with the legendary Richard Simmons

NCL was invited to attend TEDMED because of our role in The 20 Great Challenges of Health and Medicines. Since last fall, we have been part of a team discussing one of the challenges: The Role of the Patient. Through an online format, we have been discussing how patients engage (or are prevented from engaging) in their health care. The last day of TEDMED was focused specifically on the Great Challenges and coming up with solutions to the meet those Challenges. More on that below.

The overall theme of TEDMED 2013 was the power of connections. As TEDMED curator, Jay Walker stated “TEDMED brings together doctor, nurses, scientists, researchers, technologists, business leaders, policymakers, rescue workers, educators, armed service personnel, artists, media, and athletes all eager to share, learn listen and grow. The result? A series of creative collisions that spark imaginative new thinking.”

Each session contained a variety of talks, united by a theme. For instance, one session I found particularly riveting, was “Thinking Outside the (Check) Box.” The session included, among other things, Sue Austin showing off her work as an artist performing underwater in her scuba wheelchair. She claimed to be the most mobile person at TEDMED despite being paralyzed from the waist down. Jessica Richman asked if a citizen scientist (a person with no formal science training) could ever win the Nobel Prize in science. Ryan Panchadsaram shared his ideas for the uses of data in public policy, and Salvatore Iaconesi described how his community, both in person and online, helped him deal with his brain cancer diagnosis and say “Hey Cancer! You’re not all there is to me!”

Finally, Andrew Solomon, who was one of the more compelling speakers of the three-day conference, offered his ideas on the merging of illness, identity, and relationships, and his opinion that relationships of all types help us deal with illness.

The last day of the conference focused on The 20 Great Challenges of Health and Medicine. The Great Challenges Day, hosted by George Washington University and made possible by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, kicked off with a plea to recognize the inherent value of stories that lie behind the data. As part of The Role of the Patient Challenge, we were charged with using storytelling to understand the issue and plot out potential solutions. Our team of about 25 participants gathered and with the help of a doodle artist, came up with a host of solutions. For more on what the Challenge teams came up with, follow the TEDMED Great Challenges in the coming weeks and months. Join in on the conversion about the Role of the Patient and how we can change our culture from one that provides care to patients to creating heath with patients!

National Consumers League statement on inmate telephone rates – National Consumers League

April 26, 2013

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

Washington, DC—The National Consumers League (NCL) today reiterated its support for a cap on inmate calling rates. In reply comments filed recently with the Federal Communications Commission, NCL called on the Commission to set a benchmark Inmate Calling Service rate cap of $0.07 per minute with no per-call fees or other ancillary fees or taxes for all private, public, state, county and local correctional and detention facilities. In this effort, NCL joins with important allies like the Campaign for Prison Phone Justice and Verizon in calling on the FCC to create an environment where inmates can more easily stay in touch with their families.

The following statement is attributable to NCL Executive Director Sally Greenberg:

“Having a loved one incarcerated already places severe strain on families. Being hit with the double whammy of extremely high calling rates to communicate with that loved one only exacerbates that strain. We applaud the FCC for considering this important issue and urge the Commission to institute common-sense rate caps that will allow inmates and their families to affordably stay in touch.”


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

Another successful LifeSmarts National Championship – National Consumers League

By Sally Greenberg, NCL Executive Director

I am returning from the 19th annual LifeSmarts competitions this year in Atlanta elated as always with the energy and enthusiasm of the very talented teenagers that come to our nationals’ competitions.  Everyone who comes to nationals is a winner in more ways than one. They are literally winners because they’ve won their state competitions. But they are also winners because they have so much consumer savvy – often far more than their peers and even their parents or family members.

LifeSmarts tests contestants in five different areas: personal rights and responsibilities, health and safety, the environment, technology and personal finance. The National Consumers League sponsors LifeSmarts because we believe that young adults who understand the world around them and can navigate often complicated financial transactions with savvy and know how will make better consumers.

This year we had teams from 39 states competing – and hundreds of teens in the room cheering their teams on, getting to know kids from other states, studying lessons online in preparation for their competitions and having a lot of fun in their off time.

There are many other competitions for youth – spelling bees, math quiz shows, overall knowledge testing – but there are none that provide young people with the practical skills they will need to help keep them financially and economically on course for the rest of their lives. We are proud of the LifeSmarts program and we look forward to growing it so that youngsters from all 50 states can benefit from the practical skills the LifeSmarts program teaches them.

Florida takes 2013 national LifeSmarts title – National Consumers League

April 23, 2013

Contact: Carol McKay, (724) 799-5392,

Atlanta, GA—The student team from Paxon School for Advanced Studies in Jacksonville, FL was crowned national LifeSmarts champions in Atlanta on Tuesday, April 23. After a tough final match against the second-place team from Barrington High School in Rhode Island, the teens from the Florida outscored their opponents and did it with great sportsmanship. Teams from Tennessee and Pennsylvania placed third.

“We are so proud of these students from the sunshine state, who represented their state program with class and pride,” said LifeSmarts Program Director Lisa Hertzberg. “They played hard and demonstrated their consumer smarts throughout the four-day event. They are true LifeSmarts champions.”

LifeSmarts is a program run by the Washington, DC-based National Consumers League (NCL), the nation’s oldest consumer advocate. It competitively tests high school students’ knowledge of consumer awareness, with subjects including personal finance, health and safety, consumer rights and responsibility, technology, and the environment.

Teens from each of the 38 state champion teams represented at nationals competed as individuals, and the top five scorers received $500 scholarships from NCL. This year’s winners were:

  • Environment: Jack Caljouw, MA
  • Personal Finance: Steven Cotter, FL
  • Health and Safety: Isaac Mades, WI
  • Consumer Rights and Responsibilities: Gates Palissery, PA
  • Technology: Ryan Jerue, RI

“NCL’s LifeSmarts program is allowing us to rear a generation of consumer-savvy teenagers who often outsmart their parents on issues related to avoiding fraud, credit and debt, and complicated health care decisions,” said NCL Executive Director Sally Greenberg. In the 19 years that LifeSmarts has been educating high school and middle school teens on consumer issues, it has grown dramatically, with more than 3 million consumer questions at in the online competition during the 2012-2013 academic year.

For team photos, event schedules, grid standings, and more, log on to

All winners at the national LifeSmarts Competition received valuable prizes donated by sponsors to the National Consumers League, including scholarships, savings bonds, gift cards, and more. To learn more about the program, contact NCL’s Lisa Hertzberg at 202-835-3323. For a complete listing of this year’s prizes, visit


About LifeSmarts and the National Consumers League

LifeSmarts is a program of the National Consumers League. State coordinators run the programs on a volunteer basis. For more information, visit:, email , or call the National Consumers League’s communications department at 202-835-3323. 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

Florida wins the 19th annual national LifeSmarts championship – National Consumers League

The student team from Paxon School for Advanced Studies in Jacksonville, FL was crowned national LifeSmarts champions in Atlanta on Tuesday, April 23. After a tough final match against the second-place team from Barrington High School in Rhode Island, the teens from the Florida outscored their opponents and did it with great sportsmanship. Teams from Tennessee and Pennsylvania placed third. Congratulations to everyone who participated in this year’s tournament, the biggest ever, and helped make the competition a huge success. Hopefully we will see everyone again at our national tournament next year in…Orlando. Stay up to date on consumer issues year round by following NCL on Twitter at NCL_Tweets.

LifeSmarts Day 4: A champion will be crowned – National Consumers League

Who will win it all? Our final four teams Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Tennessee, and Florida have competed against fellow teams for three days and have demonstrated remarkable consumer acumen. Today, we crown a champion. Today, we find out what state can claim LifeSmarts expertise and bathe in LifeSmarts glory for the next year. Thank you to everyone who helped us spread LifeSmarts on Twitter using #LifeSmarts2013 and ensured our biggest and best LifeSmarts competition to date! Follow the finals on our live stream at

Final four LifeSmarts teams determined in Atlanta: TN, RI, PA, FL to face off for the title 4/23 – National Consumers League

April 22, 2013

Contact: Carol McKay, (724) 799-5392,

Atlanta, GA — Just in time for April’s Financial Literacy Month, the National Consumers League (NCL) has announced the four semifinalist champion teams that have reached the final playoffs in the 2013 National LifeSmarts Championship, taking place in Atlanta, GA, at the Hyatt Regency Atlanta. LifeSmarts ( is NCL’s 19-year-old program that educates teens and tweens on real-world financial and consumer literacy issues. Former Representative George “Buddy” Darden will help the National Consumers League crown the 2013 national champion team on Tuesday, April 23 at 12 noon EDT.

LifeSmarts is a competitive educational program, in which teams of students begin competing online. Top-scorers progress to state competitions, and state champion teams meet each April to compete in the National LifeSmarts Championship. For a complete list of state champions, visit

The final four teams are:

  • Pennsylvania’s Dallas High School in Dallas
  • Tennessee’s Coffee County 4-H
  • Rhode Island’s Barrington High School from Barrington
  • Florida’s Paxon School for Advanced Studies from Jacksonville

The 2013 National LifeSmarts Champion and other winning teams will walk away with prizes and scholarships. In addition to placing as a team, individual students have the opportunity to compete for scholarships for demonstrating knowledge in specific program topic areas. The top eight placing teams and top five individuals are recognized. NCL thanks the sponsors who make our program possible, including Visa, Western Union, American Century, Investments Foundation, Google, CBM Credit Education Foundation, Inc., UL, McNeil Consumer Healthcare, Bridgestone Retail Operations, Experian, Toyota Financial Services, and American Express.

Consumer-savvy teens representing 38 states competed at this year’s national event. Throughout the 2012-2013 program year, more than 15,000 teens competed online for a chance to represent their states at the 2013 National LifeSmarts Championship. Players answered more than 3 million consumer questions in the online competition.


The LifeSmarts program will be honored by an appearance by George “Buddy” Darden, who will address the state champions at the Awards Luncheon, Tuesday, 4/23 at 12 noon. Consumer advocate and NCL Executive Director Sally Greenberg will also be available for media interviews.

When: April 23, 2013

Where: Hyatt Regency Atlanta

Final match: Tuesday, April 23, 10:45 a.m. EDT

Awards Ceremony: 12 p.m. – 1:30 p.m. EDT

Follow the competition online

Parents and teachers can follow the action at

The semi-final and final competition matches will be streamed live

Tuesday, April 23, 2012

Semi-finals: 9 am EDT Pennsylvania
 vs. Rhode Island and Florida vs. Tennessee

Finals: 10:45 am EDT


About the National Consumers League and LifeSmarts

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

LifeSmarts is a program of the National Consumers League. State coordinators run the programs on a volunteer basis. For more information, visit:, email or call the National Consumers League’s communications department at 202-835-3323.