NCL commends Blumenthal, Senate for oversight hearings – National Consumers League

August 1, 2013

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

Washington, DC –The National Consumers League commends Senator Richard Blumenthal (D-Ct) and the Senate Judiciary Subcommittee on Oversight, Federal Rights and Agency Action for holding its first hearing on August 1, 2013 on a needlessly byzantine and slow regulatory process that has very real costs for workers, consumers, and the broader public. 

Regulatory review times at the Office of Management and Budget are now the longest in 20 years and have spiked sharply since 2011. The pace of rulemaking has slowed sharply in 2012 and 2013, with the White House holding up rules on issues as diverse as energy efficiency that could save billions of dollars each year, silica exposure rules for workers, and backover protection technology regulations in cars and trucks that are intended to save the lives of small children.

“The truth is that years of sensible and strong regulations have helped to keep our water and air clean, our toys safe, our cars far more protective, our drugs pure, our food free from contaminants and our product labeling more honest,” said Sally Greenberg, Executive Director of NCL. “NCL has been critical of the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs (OIRA) for bottling up an array of critical worker and consumer safety regulations without proper authority or justification.” 

“We are gratified that the Senate Judiciary Committee will be conducting its essential function in providing oversight to the work of government agencies like OMB and OIRA and thank Senator Blumenthal for his leadership,” Greenberg added. “It is high time OIRA’s ‘paralysis by analysis’ was brought under appropriate scrutiny.”


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

Advocacy group commends Senate vote on NLRB appointments – National Consumers League

July 31, 2013

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

Washington, DC – The National Consumers League commends the United States Senate for its votes to confirm five nominees to the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB), ensuring its ability to protect American workers with a fully functioning Board for the first time in a decade. The NLRB is an independent federal agency whose board members are appointed by the President.

The new NLRB Board members are: Mark Pearce (current Chairmen), Kent Hirozawa, Nancy Schiffer, Harry Johnson, and Philip Miscimarra.

The following statement may be attributed to NCL Executive Director Sally Greenberg:

The role of the NLRB is to deliver to both private and union employees the right to bargain for a better work life, as granted by the National Labor Relations Act. The NLRB plays a vital role in the safeguarding of employees’ rights to organize and promoting civil and efficient union-management relations and collective bargaining.

For years, a politicized and understaffed NLRB has been on the brink of becoming inoperable and unable to render any decisions. Without the Senate confirmation of members, the cop on the beat would have been forced to abandon its post this August. We are pleased that the Senate was able to come to this overdue action, ending questions of legitimacy for the Board and ensuring its ability to protect workers and employers.

In the current era, in which workers from all sectors have been under attack, protections like those theoretically provided by the NLRA are more critical than ever. Conservative opposition determined to prevent the NLRB from being fully functional and to undermine the federal laws in place to protect workers has finally been overcome by a series of political moves, including the President’s recess appointments and, finally, this Senate confirmation vote. We are pleased at this bipartisan vote, a step forward for the American worker; and we hope it’s a sign of better things to come.


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

Safety of food imports getting a boost – National Consumers League

Did you know that 20 percent of America’s food supply is imported from other countries, including half of our fresh fruit and 20 percent of the fresh vegetables we eat? Despite these significant numbers, the federal government has been, up until now, only inspecting 2 percent of these imports. According to new rules from the Food and Drug Administration, however, that is about to change.

Advocates at the National Consumers League (NCL) and other organizations concerned with the safety of the food supply are celebrating the recent proposal by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for long-awaited import rules, a key component of the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA), which President Obama signed into law in January 2011.

According to experts at Pew Charitable Trusts, food imported from other countries accounts for a disproportionately high percentage of foodborne illness in the United States. Eight of the 19 multistate foodborne illness outbreaks that have occurred since President Obama signed FSMA into law in January 2011 were linked to imported foods, including pomegranate seeds, tahini sesame paste, cucumbers, ricotta salata cheese, mangoes, raw tuna, pine nuts and papayas. That number also includes the current 9-state hepatitis A outbreak linked to pomegranate seeds imported from Turkey that has sickened 153 people, 66 of whom have been hospitalized.

Advocates see these rules as instrumental for creating a food safety system, which works to prevent — not just respond to –foodborne illness outbreaks. The Foreign Supply Verification rule will require importers to ensure foreign suppliers meet U.S. standards. The Accredited Third Party Certification will only further strengthen the safety audits and certifications for food imports. According to the FDA, the new rules will shift the regulatory system toward prevention within the supply chain, instead of relying heavily on FDA inspectors to catch problems at the border or port of entry.

Think foodborne illness is too rare to worry about? Think again. It might be more common than you think, with major newsworthy outbreaks happening quite regularly. Check out these most recent outbreaks, as reported by USA Today.

2013 Foodborne illness outbreaks in imports:

June 2013: Hepatitis A

  • Nine states
  • Source: Turkish pomegranates in a frozen berry mix
  • 153 ill, 66 hospitalized, no deaths

May 2013: Salmonella Montevideo, Salmonella Mbandaka

  • Nine states.
  • Source: Tahini sesame paste from Turkey.
  • 16 ill, one hospitalized, one death.

April 2013: Salmonella Saintpaul

  • 18 states
  • Source: Cucumbers from Mexico.
  • 84 ill, 17 hospitalized, no deaths.

Minimum wage movement building momentum – National Consumers League

Our economic recovery is well underway, the stock market has reached record highs, and corporations are registering record profits. Yet American low-wage workers are struggling. A movement to increase the minimum wage, however, is gaining momentum. What could this mean for workers across the country? Will the federal government act to lift millions of Americans out of poverty.

“Tonight, let’s declare that in the wealthiest nation on Earth, no one who works full time should have to live in poverty, and raise the federal minimum wage to $9 an hour. This single step would raise the incomes of millions of working families. It could mean the difference between groceries or the food bank; rent or eviction; scraping by or finally getting ahead. For businesses across the country, it would mean customers with more money in their pockets.”

– President Barack Obama, 2013 State of the Union Address

Our economic recovery is well underway, the stock market has reached record highs, and corporations are registering record profits. Yet American low-wage workers are struggling. The federal minimum wage of $7.25/hr has not increased in four years, and the tipped minimum wage has remained stagnant for 22 years at the meager $2.13/hr. A movement to increase the minimum wage, however, is gaining momentum. How will this turn out for workers across the country?

At a time when unemployment remains high, the biggest employers of low-wage workers are able to play a game of supply and demand with workers and salaries as pawns. High unemployment rates means no need for competitive wages; if one person quits, another worker (or 50) will be anxiously waiting to fill the position. Unless new legislation mandating an increase in the minimum wage is passed, big companies can continue to pay low wages, and low-wage workers will continue to suffer.

This week, fast food workers are holding a series of one-day strikes in cities across the country. From New York, to Chicago, to Kansas City, St. Louis, Detroit, Milwaukee, and Flint, workers will take to the streets, risking their jobs, to demand increased wages. These strikes follow a series of stoppages by hundreds of federally contracted workers in Washington, DC last month.

Big companies claim that they cannot afford to pay workers more money. A close examination of their financials, however, tells a much different story. According to the National Employment Law Project (NELP), 78 percent of the 50 largest low-wage employers have been profitable every year for the last three years. During this time, the average top executive has received a $9.4 million salary each year.

Median pay for chief executives at the nation’s top corporations jumped 16 percent last year. Between 2006 and 2012, the bottom 20 percent of workers, however, have seen their income fall 5 percent—proof that the rich keep getting richer and the poor keep getting poorer, with a growing income gap.

In addition to stagnant wages, many companies have devised other methods for ensuring that what they pay their employees remains low. Caterpillar Inc., for example, pressured its long-term employees to accept six-year pay freezes despite record profits of $4.9 billion last year. Walmart has started hiring only temporary workers to fill open positions. Employees who work part time make, on average, $7/hr less than their full-time counterparts.

Despite some growth, the economy could use a boost. Increasing the minimum wage would result in a raise for millions of Americans and, with more money in their pockets, millions of consumers would spend more.

In his State of the Union Address, President Obama proposed a $9.00 minimum wage; the Fair Minimum Wage Act of 2013 (S. 460) (H.R. 1010) proposes a $10.10 minimum wage; the Washington, DC City Council recently approved a $12.50 minimum wage at big-box stores.

What do you think? Is it time to raise the minimum wage? Join the discussion at our Facebook page.

Meet the top ten scams – #3 fake prizes/sweepstakes/free gift scams – National Consumers League

This is part three of our 10-part series taking a closer look at the top scams of 2012. The number three scam reported to NCL’s Fraud Center in 2012 was fake prizes, sweepstakes, and free gifts scams. To see an overview of our complete report on the top scams of the year, visit our Web site at This year, the third most common type of scam reported to National Consumers League involved fake prizes, sweepstakes, and prizes.

These scams, which are may be advertised via phone calls, direct mail or email, generally claim that a consumer has won an a sweepstakes or other prize and must pay an upfront fee (such as fake “taxes” or “processing fee.”) The prize never materializes and the consumer lost the money spent on the “fees.” The widely reported “Jamaican Lottery Scam” is one of these types of frauds. However, this scam comes in many other variations, with scammers posing as representatives of well known sweepstakes such as Publishers Clearing House and Reader’s Digest. Consumers should look for the following red flags of possible fraud:

  • If you’re asking to pay money in order to collect winnings from a sweepstakes, lottery or other prize offering, it’s a scam
  • If you are told that you’ve won a lottery or contest you’ve never entered, it’s a scam
  • If you’re asked to wire money in order to collect winnings, it’s a scam
  • The “promoter” asks for sensitive personal information such as a credit or debit card number, Social Security Number or bank account number
  • The advertisement states that a purchase is necessary to win
  • The “promoter” guarantees that you will win if you send funds

Consumers who have responded to an advertisement for one of these fraudulent lotteries or sweepstakes or who have sent money to the scammer should expect that they will be contacted by the scammer and the scammer’s accomplices frequently with additional demands. Scammers engaged in fraudulent sweepstakes schemes have been known to use threats to extract more money from their victims or even impersonate law enforcement (and ask for additional money to set up “stings” against the scammers). Additional information on these scams is available here.

Consumer group praises FDA proposal on import rules to prevent outbreaks – National Consumers League

July 26, 2013

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

Washington, DC—The National Consumers League (NCL), the nation’s oldest consumer advocacy organization, praises the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for its proposal of long-awaited import rules, an integral part of the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA), which President Obama signed into law in January 2011.

“NCL commends FDA for the release of these proposed rules,” said Executive Director Sally Greenberg. “Given the fact that the U.S. imports nearly 50 percent of its fresh fruit and 20 percent of its vegetables, these rules are instrumental in creating a food safety system which works to prevent — not merely respond – to foodborne illness outbreaks. The Foreign Supply Verification rule will require importers to ensure foreign suppliers meet U.S. standards. The Accredited Third Party Certification will only further strengthen the safety audits and certifications for food imports.”

“We congratulate FDA for moving forward with FSMA implementation and look forward to reading the complete rules and providing substantive comments on their contents,” Greenberg said.  “We are confident and hopeful that by all working together American consumers will reap the benefits of a safer and more secure food supply.” 


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

Signs of progress improving worker safety in Bangladesh – National Consumers League

By Monique St. Jarre, Child Labor Policy Intern
Monique St. Jarre, is a child labor policy intern at NCL and the Child Labor Coalition and is a rising junior at Hamilton College pursuing a degree in world politics and economics. Monique is interested in human rights and international development issues. She is on the varsity Hamilton softball team and will be traveling to South Africa for the fall semester.

In the wake of the Rana Plaza factory collapse in Bangladesh in late April, the world has responded with outrage and passion. Though it has been compared to the infamous 1911 New York City Triangle Shirtwaist Factory Fire, the Rana Plaza collapse has a death toll almost eight times greater than the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory Fire, and is—by far— the worst factory disaster in world history. In response to the tragedy, recent activity in Washington, D.C. has shown public support for improved worker safety, despite the difficulties of bringing it about. The popular, politically-minded cafe Busboys and Poets invited Sonia Mistry and Timothy Ryan from the Solidarity Center, to give a presentation entitled: “After Rana Plaza: Global Perspectives on Workers’ Rights” earlier this summer. The Solidarity Center, an AFL-CIO affiliate, works closely with burgeoning labor groups around the world; it also a member of the Child Labor Coalition, which is co-chaired by the National Consumers League (NCL),  Mistry and Ryan’s talk was a part of the  Bread & Roses labor speaker series that strives to make the public more aware of pressing labor issues. Mistry first laid down the facts :  4 million Bangladeshi workers are in the garment industry, which accrues $19 billion a year in revenue. Since November, Mistry said, there had been 44 factory fires in Bangladesh, on top of the more than 1,129 victims from the Rana collapse.  The building was clearly unsafe, and the owner sent the workers back into the building because he feared lost profits, said Mistry. Doors were locked, fire escapes were lacking, and fire and safety equipment was missing. What is the main lesson to draw from this disaster? It was preventable, and should never be allowed to happen again, said Mistry and Ryan, who argued that a key to avoiding such tragedies is establishing vibrant labor unions which are often able to work to mitigate unsafe factory conditions. Mistry and Ryan also urged global clothing companies to sign on to the comprehensive Bangladesh factory safety accord that has been embraced by many European companies, while being eschewed by most American retailers. In early June, the US Senate Committee on Foreign Relations held a hearing to discuss what governments and companies might do to prevent more Rana disasters. Despite widespread public concern about factory safety reform, American retailers seemedless committed to making the significant safety changes embraced by European retailers. Arguments for the companies’ foot-draggingwere built on issues of legality and cost:It would be too risky and too expensive to make Bangladesh’s factories safe,and that American consumers did not want bear those costs in higher prices for clothes, suggested the retailers But are the companies right? Do Consumers care enough about factory safety to demand that factories be made safe? At the NCL, we launched the 10 cents pledge campaign to help answer those questions.  Based on financial data provided by the Workers Rights Consortium, NCL calculated that a mere 10 cents on every garment piece would generate enough money—the over $3 billion needed—to make Bangladeshi factories safe over a five-year period. Our campaign has brought media attention to factory safety and raised consumer awareness about the real costs of safety improvements, which are more viable than the companies want us to believe. Since the Ryan-Mistry presentation and the congressional hearing, a concerned Obama administration has jumped into the issue and removed GSP trade benefit status for Bangladesh. The AFL-CIO, who filed this petition in 2007, applauded this announcement while the Bangladesh government fully protested its economic implications.  Many American lawmakers and advocacy groups, however, are confident that it will serve as a strong symbol of American commitment to the idea that workers should be protected. Once the Bangladesh government takes the necessary actions and safety improvements are visible, trade benefit status will be reconsidered. Unfortunately, after saying “no” the European-retailer plan, American companies led by Walmart and the Gap have signed on to their own factory safety plan, labeled a “sham” by many groups, including the Interfaith Center on Corporate Responsibility. This “Worker Safety Initiative” has little legal liability and seemingly no safeguards against lack of payment or commitment by the signatories. It also creates the issue of having different safety rules for different companies who often use the same factory.  American companies need to step up to the plate and sign the better accord widely embraced by European companies. You can sign a petition telling them to do just that by clicking here. It is crucial that consumers continue to be educated about these issues, and express their concerns about worker safety to Congress and the corporate world. Please consider signing NCL’s10cents campaign pledge by clicking here. We must not allow time to fog our memories of this terrible tragedy.

Dethrone the King Amendment – National Consumers League

By Teresa Green, Linda Golodner Food Safety & Nutrition Fellow Over the past two months, animal welfare groups have expressed outrage over the King Amendment to the Farm Bill. Republican Representative Steve King of Iowa put forward the proposal in response to a California law that would only permit the sale of eggs from cage-free hens by 2015.

Last year, King proposed a Farm Bill amendment, which would have exempted out-of-state producers from having to meet the standards of the state in which their products sell. Now, seeing an opportunity for passage, Rep. King has introduced his bill as an amendment to the Farm Bill yet again. However, animal welfare groups are not the only ones with the right to be enraged; everyday-consumers have a stake in this, too. The provision, written in loose and ambiguous language, could ultimately lead to overturning a wide array of state laws enacted to promote food safety and ensure fair labor standards. In this aggressive assault on states’ abilities to protect and promote the health and safety of their citizens, the amendment threatens the very laws that citizens helped to enact. As a result, child labor laws might go out the window. Rules related to additives in alcohol production, rules on raw milk and arsenic in poultry-feed are also under threat. NCL has been working hard with a multi-stakeholder coalition to ensure this amendment does not make its way into the final Farm Bill.  But we need your help, too. We call on you to contact your representative and two Senators, encouraging them to reject the King Amendment and stand up for consumer protection.

The UK institutes a front of package labeling system, we hope FDA follows – National Consumers League

By Teresa Green, Linda Golodner Food Safety & Nutrition Fellow Anyone who has ever been to the grocery store knows how overwhelming picking a product can be.  When there are 20 brands of peanut butter it can be difficult to choose which one to purchase.  Should you pick the one with less fat but more sugar?  What about the claims that one brand is “all natural?”  How much sodium is too much?

This understandable confusion has given rise to a proliferation of front of package (FOP) labeling systems which ostensibly present more concise information to consumers.  Unfortunately, because these systems are designed and implemented by the industry, they can often still be confusing. This is why we have, for many years, been urging the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to adopt a mandatory FOP labeling system.  In 2011, the Institute of Medicine (IOM) issued a report on the topic, recommending a system that granted foods stars based on the amounts of fat, sugar and salt they contained.  As of yet, FDA has taken no public action to implement this system.  Chronically underfunded, the agency has been overwhelmed by an expanded food safety mandate in recent years and has had to prioritize those responsibilities over labeling. The UK, on the other hand, is making inroads, having just recently introduced a system.  However, they do not mandate its use and thus estimate the voluntary regime will cover 60 percent of foods.  Still, this is certainly a step in the right direction.  A single uniform, government-issued system provides clarity and consumer demand can pressure non-compliant companies into implementing the system.  Here’s to hoping FDA takes note and moves forward with its own long-delayed regulations.

Is it good or bad that obesity is now classified as a disease? – National Consumers League

By Zoe Stahl, Food and Labor Policy Intern
Last month, the American Medical Association (AMA) designated obesity a disease.  With this decision, 78 million adults and 12 million children have suddenly been categorized as having a disease.   And with this decision has come much debate: is this in fact a step forward? To provide a better understanding of the implications, here’s a list of pros and cons of AMA’s policy change:

Pros: Many wrongly consider the obese to be lazy and indulgent. Classifying obesity as a disease may help undermine these negative stereotypes by reminding the public that obesity is a chronic disease caused by a number of factors, including one’s genes and the environment.
  • Medical schools, overwhelmed by all the material they need to cover, often neglect teaching obesity prevention. AMA’s decision may spur the addition of nutrition-focused classes to schools’ curriculum, helping to enhance the ability of future doctors to address obesity.
  • This new policy may also encourage doctors to provide much-needed counseling and targeted interventions to those struggling with their weight. Prevention and intervention are especially important given that obesity correlates with certain health issues, such as hypertension, sleep apnea, heart attack, stroke and certain cancers.


  • As a society, we often use weight as a proxy for health. However, many studies have shown that being thin does not necessarily mean being healthier. While higher weights can lead to increased risk of type 2 diabetes,  heavier women are all less likely to develop osteoporosis; this is the perfect illustration that thinner is not always better. Classifying obesity as a disease may only further our conflation of weight and health—and all the negatives that come with that falsehood like fat discrimination and an overemphasis on calorie reduction.
  • Body Mass Index (BMI), which is often used to measure and diagnose obesity, is calculated by dividing body mass by the square of height, but is  an imperfect way to measure and diagnose obesity. Though seemingly accurate, BMI fails to accurately detect obesity. An individual who is fit and muscular can have a high BMI, while an individual who is low in weight and high in body fat could be considered normal weight. This inaccurate system can lead to misdiagnosis, causing doctors to overemphasize weight at the expense of overall health.
  • Finally, some fear that this new classification will spur a new round of aggressive anti-obesity measures by the government, such as a “fat tax” on highly saturated foods. Many are concerned that the government will become more paternalistic, limiting and infringing on their personal liberty.

If some of this seems contradictory, it is. The science is, too. Nonetheless, the recent classification of obesity as a disease is an important one. By bringing attention to what many consider a public health issue, the AMA has reminded the general public of the need for continued research, efforts and education.