The time to raise the minimum wage is now – National Consumers League

By Michell K. McIntyre, Outreach Director, Labor and Worker Rights Every day we see news reports of low-wage workers going on strike for better working conditions. What we really don’t understand or are not told in those 30 to 45 second news spots is the reality facing theses workers.

When low-wage workers take the extraordinary step to go on strike they not only forfeit that day’s pay but they put themselves in their employer’s crosshairs. While the law states that retaliating against an employee who exercises their right to assemble, protest and go on strike is illegal, most employers who engage in retaliation; i.e. reducing the worker’s hours, changing the employee’s shifts, dropping their benefits or firing the employee; are never held accountable.

These workers have taken this enormous risk because life as they know it, simply can not continue. With the federal minimum wage stuck at $7.25 an hour, a single mother that works full time and has one child, lives in poverty at $15,080 (before taxes) a year. This qualifies them for food stamps because without it, they would have little left after paying rent, utilities, transportation, and health care. Even McDonald’s convoluted monthly budget planning guide assumes that workers have two jobs simultaneously and are working both nearly full-time. What’s laughable is that McDonald’s assumes that rent is $600, health care is $20 a month and that is costs nothing to feed and clothe oneself. Through their budget planning guide, they basically admit that workers can not survive on one full-time job that pays the minimum wage. So why not pay workers more? Low-wage employers, including McDonald’s and Walmart, made billions of dollars in profits in the past few years, yet instead of sharing the wealth with their employees, they pay their top executives on average $9.4 million per year – that’s over $4,517 an hour. Why not shift some of that to the low-wage employees?

American voters, consumers and small business owners want change. Seventy-three percent of likely 2012 general election voters support raising the minimum wage to $10 per hour – including 50% of Republicans and 74% of independents. Close to nine in ten consumers (87%) strongly agree or agree that the federal tipped minimum wage of $2.13 an hour should be increased. Even a majority of small business owners (67%) support raising the minimum wage. With an exceptionally small raise to $9 an hour, $3,500 would be added to the annual income of full-time low-wage workers and can be used for a year’s worth of groceries or utilities. If raised to $10.10 an hour, as those in both houses of Congress and worker advocates are calling for, then 30.3 million workers would get a raise. It’s time for a real change – we need to raise the minimum wage!

The Faces of LifeSmarts — Lois Johnson – National Consumers League

Lois Johnson, the 2013 LifeSmarts Coach of the Year with LifeSmarts Program Director Lisa Hertzberg. Lois Johnson has six kids, seven grandkids, and 100’s of LifeSmarts kids. She has been coaching for 16 years, continually expanding her LifeSmarts family. Johnson has now entered her last year coaching the program.

Retirement lies ahead, but first she aims to lead Willow River High School to a seventh consecutive Minnesota state championship and a trip to Orlando for the 2014 national championship. Throughout her years participating in LifeSmarts, Johnson has had her fair share of laughs, tears, and heart palpitations. “I get really nervous during competitions,” says Johnson. “I just put my head down on the table; I can’t even look.” A few years ago, Dougie, a special education student from Willow River, a K-12 school with fewer than 500 students, enrolled in Johnson’s LifeSmarts class.

Initially, Johnson was skeptical that he could beat out many of his fellow students and earn a spot on the 5-person team, which was headed to the state competition, but through hard work and hours of studying, he did. During the competition, Johnson assumed her position—head down on the table, eyes closed— as she tried to suppress her nerves. “Suddenly everyone gasped,” said Johnson. “I looked up, it was a crucial point in the match, and Dougie had just buzzed in. He got the question right and then proceeded to get two or three more questions right. It was something from a movie, he was so excited. This little special education student was so shy, and here he was answering questions, and you could see his confidence growing. The whole experience was…” after a long pause, “life changing.”

LifeSmarts is a program designed to prepare all students, not just straight-A students, for the basics skills they need to navigate life’s pitfalls and obstacles. “The information is so practical,” Johnson explains. “You can take algebra or geometry and learn some stuff, but I tell my students I’m going to teach you things you’ll actually be using. It’s survival.” The lessons learned through the LifeSmarts curriculum will be valuable throughout life; avoiding identity theft, learning how to deal with insurance policies, and renting your first apartment. But the relationships formed in LifeSmarts can also last a lifetime. “I’m proud to be a part of the first-ever LifeSmarts wedding,” says Johnson. “One of my former LifeSmarts kids is marrying a boy from Alabama, someone she met at the LifeSmarts national competition. I was invited to the wedding, and they told me they were going to have LifeSmarts questions on every table.” At this LifeSmarts event Johnson will have no need to assume her all-to-familiar competition position. Head held high, she will proudly welcome this new addition to her LifeSmarts family.

Consumers are ultimate losers in retransmission consent fights – National Consumers League

August 6, 2013

Contact: Ben Klein, NCL Communications, (202)

Washington, DC–The ongoing carriage dispute between Time Warner Cable and CBS underscores the fact that the current retransmission consent regime is broken. Broadcasters have a systematic advantage over cable companies in these disputes – a fact that they continue to use to extract ever-higher carriage fees. Those costs are inevitably passed along on consumers’ cable bills.

The fallout from this dispute is now affecting more than just cable television subscribers. CBS is currently blocking subscribers of Time Warner Cable’s Internet service from its online content as well. This practice is reportedly affecting Time Warner Cable’s Internet service users indiscriminately, whether they are also cable television subscribers or not.

In response, the National Consumers League today called for movement towards much-needed reforms of broadcast retransmission consent rules to address the recurring threat of service disruptions and rising cable bills.  

“The current state of retransmission consent regulations leave consumers with two unappealing choices,” said John Breyault, NCL Vice President of Public Policy, Telecommunications and Fraud. “Rising consumer cable bills are due in no small part to broadcasters’ continual push for higher carriage fees. If a cable company plays hardball in negotiations, consumers risk paying for nothing when the broadcasters’ channels go dark. Either way, consumers lose.”

More than two years ago, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) adopted a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking that would partially address these ongoing disputes. The current Time Warner Cable-CBS squabble should demonstrate to the FCC that it cannot simply leave this proceeding open and hope the problem solves itself.  

In March of this year, former FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski told a Senate oversight panel that it “may be time to update those provisions to reduce the chances of blackouts during retransmission consent negotiations.” We couldn’t agree more. Consumers deserve an end to the never-ending cycle of higher fees and service disruptions. We urge acting FCC Chairwoman Mignon Clyburn and incoming Chairman Tom Wheeler to give this issue the time and attention it deserves.


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

School is almost back in session. This year, think LifeSmarts. – National Consumers League

By Lee Parker, LifeSmarts program Intern
Lee Parker is a LifeSmarts intern at NCL. He will begin his junior year this fall at Tulane University, where he is pursuing degrees in Political Economy, and Legal Studies in Business. Lee has a passion for promoting consumer education and financial literacy. Lee is a member of the Tulane debate team, and is helping to launch Common Sense Action, a new youth advocacy movement fighting for generational equity.

Brace yourselves: It’s August. For kids, this means the last chances to bask in the summer air of freedom. For parents, this means an ever-closer return to the “normalcy” of the school year.  For me, it means facing the realities of being an adult for the first time: paying rent and utilities, buying furniture and other household goods for my new apartment, and beginning to sort out the rest of my life. This constitutes the college student/young adult’s version of “back-to-school shopping,” a necessary transition between summer vacation and the school year, for students of all ages. But back-to-school shopping offers a much more fruitful opportunity that is often overlooked, with benefits that will far outlast the upcoming school year. A survey conducted in July by Capital One found that, “69% of parents said they believe they are doing enough to teach their kids about personal finance and money management…yet less than half of teens (47%) say they have worked with their parents to develop a budget for spending and saving.” This discrepancy, while understandable, is very disheartening. Like many things, teenagers gain most of their personal finance knowledge from their parents. But without substantial, hands-on practice with basic issues such as budgeting for utilities, insurance and other necessities, young adults can easily be overwhelmed by these so-called “real world problems.” As I move into my first apartment this month, I must admit I’m nervous about dealing with these new responsibilities. Now more than ever, I will be using the knowledge that LifeSmarts does a spectacular job of teaching. After just over a month working with the LifeSmarts program, I can only wish I had competed in LifeSmarts back in high school. As LifeSmarts embarks on its 20th year of education young consumers, competitors and coaches alike can expect some exciting new possibilities just on the horizon. From the launch of the newly redesigned LifeSmarts website (coming later this month), to holding head-to-head competitions between teams on Google Hangout, LifeSmarts has quite the future ahead of it. But it isn’t about the future of LifeSmarts; it’s about the future of the young adults who gain so much practical knowledge from participating in LifeSmarts. Graduates who begin living independently for the first time are so much better equipped to face new responsibilities, and thrive in the new chapters of their lives to become smarter consumers, smarter citizens, and just smarter people. And I am firm believer in the mantra “knowledge is power,” in that smarter people make better people.

Consumer group strongly opposes the proposed REINS Act – National Consumers League

August 1, 2013

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

Washington, DC–The National Consumers League expresses strong opposition to a bill the House will consider shortly that we believe will undermine critically important consumer protections. The so-called “Regulations from the Executive in Need of Scrutiny Act (the REINS Act),” “H.R. 367” is an ill-conceived measure that would undercut the ability of federal agencies to protect consumers from unsafe food, predatory financial products and schemes, and dangerous consumer products. The federal rulemaking process is already lengthy and difficult and this bill would only make it even more time-consuming, expensive, and burdensome for federal agencies to propose consumer protection measures. We believe the end result will be harm to American consumers.

The REINS Act requires that any agency that issues a rule with an economic impact of $100 million or more obtain approval from both houses of Congress of the entire rule without changes, within 70 legislative days of the rule’s being received by Congress. If both chambers do not approve the rule within this time frame, it cannot take effect and is tabled until the following congressional session.

This legislation affects all major rules, even the vast majority that are not controversial. With few exceptions, if Congress fails to act in the allotted time, the rule could not be brought up again until the next Congress and would not be implemented. This hurdle would be virtually impossible for important consumer protection rules to overcome.  The bill strips away the authority of federal agencies that Congress created to develop expertise on how to protect American consumers from dangerous products, tainted food and predatory financial products and services. Most agencies will simply give up trying to protect consumers. If an agency were to persist in its efforts, it would face the prospect of squandering enormous resources to research, write and evaluate an important consumer protection rule, only to be stymied by well-funded special interests able to bottle up the proposed rule in a single house of Congress over a short period of time.

In the Dodd-Frank Act, the Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act, and the Food Safety Modernization Act, for example, Congress delegated rulemaking authority to regulatory agencies precisely because that is the purpose and function of these agencies. Congress has a critical role to play in holding hearings and enacting legislation to address national problems. The regulatory agencies have the expertise to then craft and adopt rules in the highly technical areas governed by each bill. If Congress were to now reverse course and put itself into the role of approving all new rules, the result would be regulatory gridlock at great cost to the health and well being of our citizens.

The REINS Act would add a significant impediment to a regulatory process that already is fraught with delays in the implementation of important consumer protections. Further, this bill would give a majority of members of one chamber of Congress the ability to prevent any consumer protection from becoming law even if the rule is not controversial, is supported by the public and is necessary to protect American consumers. This bill hijacks the process for protecting the health and safety of all Americans and must be stopped.  We urge members of the House of Representatives to oppose this unfortunate and ill-conceived legislation.

If adopted, the REINS Acts would waste federal resources, minimize the ability of federal agencies to do their jobs to protect the public and ultimately harm American consumers. We strongly urge you to oppose this bill.


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